Tax Fever, Part 1!

First, some housekeeping. Thank you so much to all of you for the warm welcome back!

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Okay, now onto actual blogging.

On Thursday, the Oakland City Council will meet to consider placing a number of measures on the November ballot (PDF). Eight of them, actually. They won’t all end up on there, but I think it is fair to say that we can expect a lot of things to vote on. So let’s take a look at what they’re considering.

Public Safety Parcel Tax

Shall the City of oakland establish a temporary parcel tax solely to assist the City in preserving, protecting and enhancing “vital public safety and violence prevention services”, which is subject to independent, annual financial reviews and oversight by a citizens committee?

This is that $360 a year parcel tax you’ve been hearing about for a while now. The Council will have the option on Thursday of placing this public safety parcel tax on the ballot with a lower annual cost than $360, but not higher. And where will that $360 go? Well…

The tax proceeds raised by this ordinance may be used only for any of the following purposes:

  • 911 police and fire response
  • 911 police and fire dispatch
  • Community and neighborhood policing
  • Park policing
  • Police investigations and oversight
  • A minimum of 75% of the annual amount appropriated may be used only for any of the police and fire services listed above
  • Violence prevention services, including but not limited to, outreach workers
  • Not more than five percent of the amount appropriated annually for the annual costs of administering the ordinance (such as evaluation, financial reviews, tax collection, calculation of the amount of the tax for each parcel)

Um. Okay. Where do you even start with this? Let’s see. I guess it’s nice that it doesn’t tie the City’s hands too much. I suppose everyone learned that lesson with Measure Y. They’re got themselves a little kind of grab bag of public safety stuff they can spend the money on, rather than limiting it to sworn officers — it looks like evidence technicians, dispatchers, the civilianization of oversight functions that a number of organizations have been advocating for, I don’t know, you might be able to even squeeze the Neighborhood Service Coordinators in there as part of “Community and neighborhood policing.” So the flexibility is nice.

It’s also, of course, totally irrelevant. Is there anyone who thinks a $360 a year parcel tax has a chance in hell of passing? I mean, I think a parcel tax in any amount would be a really tough sell right now, what with the economy and the widespread voter distrust of the City’s ability to spend taxpayer money either wisely or as promised.

And then to make three hundred and sixty freaking dollars a year? I mean, it’s like a joke. I get that the City is broke and wants more money, and the $53 million a year that this tax would generate could come in pretty handy, but come on. There’s just no way. I can’t imagine something that high getting even fifty percent of the vote, much less the two-thirds approval that would be required for it to pass. I don’t know why anyone would even bother putting this one on the ballot.

Read the full proposed text here (PDF).

Measure Y “Fix”

Shall the Violence Prevention and Public Safety Act of 2004 (Measure Y) be amended to (1) clarify that tax revenue may be used to hire officers who fill positions of officers who are transferred to community policing, (2) clarify the uses of violence prevention funding, and (3) suspend the requirement that the City appropriate non-Measure Y funding each year to staff the police department at fiscal year 2003-2004 levels (739 officers)?

Basically, the City wants to be able to collect Measure Y taxes (parcel tax and parking tax) without staffing the police department at a minimum of 739 officers funded by the General Fund, which the Measure currently requires. The “fix” would also allow them to use Measure Y funds for recruitment and training of officers, in addition to paying officer salaries.

There is also a change in the language relating to fire services, which receive $4 million a year in funding from Measure Y (an aspect of the Measure that people often forget about). The existing language reads:

Fire services: Maintain staffing and equipment to operate 25 (twenty-five) fire engine companies and 7 (seven) truck companies, expand paramedic services, and establish a mentorship program at each station with an amount not to exceed $4,000,000 annually from funds collected from this ordinance.

The new version would read:

Fire services: An amount not to exceed $4,000,000 annually from funds collected under this Ordinance may be used for the following fire services: to help maintain staffing and equipment to operate up to 25 (twenty-five) fire engine companies and 7 (seven) truck companies; to expand paramedic services; and/or to establish a mentorship program at each station.

I don’t even know what I think of this. I mean, Measure Y was bad from the start. It placed way too many limitations on the City. But it isn’t like the Council stuck in all these restrictions about how the revenues could be spent for the fun of it. Measure Y came on the heels of two failed attempts to get voters to agree to more funding for increasing the police force. It was written the way it was because that’s what it took for people to support it.

So now the City is admitting that they can’t keep the promises they made in 2004, but they want the money anyway. Will people be willing to keep paying the tax without the minimum service provision guarantees? I don’t know. I mean, it seems a hell of a lot more likely to pass than a $360 a year parcel tax, but that’s not saying much. I guess the hope for this one is that people will just be desperate enough to avoid even deeper cuts to police service that they’ll agree to anything. That’s not so far-fetched, I suppose.

Read the full proposed text here (PDF).

Sales Tax

Shall the City of Oakland be authorized to enact a temporary transcations and use tax (sales tax) of one-quarter of one percent for five years with all proceeds placed in the City’s General Fund to be used for any lawful public purpose?

So, technically, it isn’t a sales tax. It’s a TUT. Don’t worry too much about the difference — they’re mostly the same in practice.

The good thing about this one (from the City’s perspective) is that it would only require a 50% yes vote to pass. It’s expected that it would generate around $8 million a year for the City beginning in FY11-12.

Currently, Oakland has a sales tax of 9.75%. This one make it 10%, one of the highest sales tax rates in the State. It doesn’t really seem like passing this would do much in the way of furthering our retail attraction ambitions, but I guess the City is just so desperate for cash that long-term strategic thinking isn’t really a high priority right now.

Read the full proposed text here (PDF).

To be continued

Okay, that’s enough for today. I’m exhausted. There are a number of other ballot measures that will be considered at Thursday’s meeting — an amendment to the Just Cause Eviction ordinance (PDF), a dramatic increase in the cannabis tax (PDF) we passed last summer, and three different utility taxes (here (PDF), here (PDF), and here (PDF)). We’ll take a look at those tomorrow.

78 thoughts on “Tax Fever, Part 1!

  1. Ralph

    The $360 a snowball may have a better chance in hell. City needs to make structural changes before I even contemplate a new tax. Non-starter.

    The MY Fix, I already pay it; not paying doesn’t improve my life that much. I am agreeable.

    The sales tax bump or TUT, if you prefer, does not hurt our retail attraction, but I still lean towards a no vote. A shopping specific trip to either SF or WC is going to eat up more in either BART or gas money. But less than 5% of my taxable spend happens in Oakland so I am not too bent out of shape.

  2. Ralph

    For the 3 util taxes, the language in the Whereas leaves one with a mixed bag of everybody else does so why shouldn’t we and we need to do this because we are broke. If the latter, why not make it temp? Also with the water/garbage can that tax be directed to supporting our crumbling infrastructure?

    I am 100% behind a 10 – 12% tax rate for cannabis. One of my complaints has always been that the supporters are overlooking oversight and regulation costs. I think this is reasonable.

  3. Marleenlee

    Of course it won’t take a rocket scientist to predict my votes on both of these. I vehemently oppose both. Interestingly, the measure y fix is to a large extent about minimizing the impact of my lawsuits. In my most recent suit I raised not only the “appropriation” issue , but also the fact that the city spent violence prevention money illegally as well. I have previously raised the issue of them never establishing
    mentorship programs at the fire stations. So now they must realize the didn’t do most of what they promised . So they’re trying to get out of their legal obligations, and my lawsuit, by just changing the law.
    More flexibility is a bad thing, not a good thing. They didn’t have the flexibility under measure y, but acted as if they did. The result? We paid $100 million (so far) and got the promised staffing for five months. And that was only after I sued them. The results of measure y have been pathetic. With more “flexibility” we will get even less.

  4. Marleenlee

    Oh, and by the way, I think the timing on all of this is totally insufficient. We have less than two weeks to actually digest all of this legalese. With measure y, there were tons of meetings to parse and tweak the language. It was still not great. Now, there won’t be time for any of that.

  5. oakie

    No more money. No way. Until the city can first demonstrate fiduciary responsibility.

    Start with the mayor’s office. What is the total budget for compensation, benefits and expenses for the mayor and all staffing assigned to the mayor’s office. Cut, cut, cut. There is no justification to spend a penny more than what Jerry Brown spent. That’s called performance budgeting. JB was competent, certainly compared to Mayor Sleepy.

    Ditto for council members. Go back to FY1990 amount with adjustment for inflation and population changes. Not a penny more.

    How much would that add up to?

  6. We Fight Blight

    No more taxes. Not a single dime more until the City cleans house and establishes priorities. The City Council has failed to redefine the core services the City should really provide. We cannot be all things to all people. I was totally annoyed by the Oakland public employees call to see if I would support the sales tax. Boy did they get a piece from me. Even when the City was fat with revenues we never got our money’s worth and customer service wasn’t even in the City’s lexicon. Recent experiences with the City staff continue to reflect that employees are overpaid and residents are underserved. With fewer police those who live outside of Oakland will percieve Oakland as being more dangerous and will not want to shop, recreate, entertain or move to Oakland. How’s that for economic development? I hear all those foregone tax revenues heading to other cities…

  7. Naomi Schiff

    Oakland is not the only one. Some other cities are also trying to raise taxes.Alameda,Newark, El Cerrito, San Francisco, many have discussed it and may try to get something on the ballot.

  8. Ralph

    In general, I do not believe that this is a good time to throw tax measures before the people. At least the SF Supervisors are looking to tax people other than your average resident. Ironically, an informal survey indicates that people throughout the bay are a little more agreeable to a given tax provided it does not go to the general fund. Apparently Oakland is not alone in its distrust of elected officals.

  9. len raphael

    How do we get access to copies of an various public opinion/likely voter surveys paid for by the city during the last three years?

    it might have been Pat K. who referred to a survey about a year ago?. Could be the surveys were all paid by unions

  10. Mary Hollis


    San Francisco is taxing people other than “your average resident” because they have people other than average residents to tax e.g. commuters, tourists, convention goers, retail, entertainment, large corporations and they have tens of thousands of million dollar properties while Oakland has few.

    And I agree a sales tax won’t hurt Oakland’s “retail attraction” but mostly because Oakland doesn’t have any retail that is attractive. Like you, I spend very little money in Oakland anyway and am even less likely to if sales tax is 10%.

    I’m not sure I agree with V that a “transaction and use” tax is the same as a sales tax – presumably it can be imposed on a wider range of items, including services. I’d like that explained by anyone who knows.

    Anyway I agree with various others here. “No” on all revenue measures until I am convinced the CC is reformed. Which probably means them all being replaced. In fact, how about that as a package deal?

  11. Ralph

    I get why SF can do it. I am probably just jealous that they have that option.

    Someone with better info can probably chime in but I think the advantage of the transaction and use tax is the city can collect it on high ticket items bought outside of the district but will have primary use within the district.

  12. gregory mcconnell

    I am not saying that I support any of these taxes at this time.  But I will say that I am altogether opposed to a parcel tax for public safety that does not include a pass through to tenants in multi-family buildings. 

    Approximately 60% of Oakland residents are renters. They use police and public safety services like every homeowner and business owner does in the city. However, they do not pay anything toward these proposed new parcel taxes.

    A delegation of major owners and I brought this issue to the attention of city leaders who agreed that it was unfair. However, they responded that if tenants were made to pay a share of the new tax, the tenants would oppose it and reduce the chances of it passing. 

    I guess as a bone to landlords, the proposed measure includes language that essentially says nothing prevents a rent increase as allowed under the Rent Control Ordinance.  That means absolutely nothing.  To have the slimmest chance to pass through a tax increase, owners would have to pay the increase, wait a year, and then seek to increase the rent based upon the complicated increased housing services regulation that is in the Rent Program’s Rules and Procedures.

    The Rent Control Law must be amended to include language that provides that in addition to other increases allowed by the law, landlords can pass through the increase in parcel taxes resulting from a new parcel tax to be voted on in November.  This has been done on several bond measures in San Francisco and is an easy fix to the law, albeit a politically difficult one for the tax measure.

    I spoke to a large landlord who owns 2,000 units.  His tax bill under the proposal would be about $240 per unit or $480,000 per year.  Think he isgoing to sit back and eat that for public safety when all of his tenants benefit from the police protection that the tax pays for?  Absolutely not!

    Landlords will mount a vigorous opposition to the parcel tax unless it is clear they will be able to pass through the tax to tenants. They may oppose it anyway but without the pass-through, I predict they will spend a lot of money to defeat this measure.

    Frankly, research that I have seen indicates that a $360 parcel tax polls in the low to mid 30 percentile with voters.  Other groups have told me their polls show similar results. 

    The parcel tax therefore has scant chance of winning as it is.  With the organized opposition that I predict would arise if no pass-through is allowed, I cannot imagine a scenario where a parcel tax could get the 2/3rds vote needed to pass.

  13. Dax

    Oakland has shown over the years, that their taxes, under any name, are fungible.

    As such, the revenues will flow to any place the city council deems appropriate.
    Witness the many “Save the Library” parcel taxes. Parcel tax money flows in one door as the city council takes money out the other door, then returns to the voters to once again “Save the Library” with a new library parcel tax.

    At the same time Oakland continues to pay a “traffic painter” $68,500 base pay and allows him/her to retire at age 60, (23 to 60) with 100% pension + medical for life, for having worked a 37.5 hour work week.

    You think I should raise my taxes to keep that kind of largess in place?

    You reduce that worker to $55,000, retiring at age 65, with perhaps a 65% pension ($3,000/mth), having worked 40 hour weeks, and I’ll think about the need for a parcel, or sales tax.

    The Oakland compensation packages from regular workers to safety have been pushed well above what is appropriate.
    They are not the norm from which “cuts” take place, but rather well above the norm to which modifications need to be applied.

    In other words, the starting point from which these discussions are taking place is out of kilter.

    Or, are there individuals here who think a traffic line painter is entitled to a 37.5 hour base pay of $68,500 with 100% pension at age 60 or even younger?

    Likewise for the average officer who gets a total compensation package of $188,000.

    Tax me to keep those in place? I don’t think so.
    Tax me more so we can keep paying people double and triple what I get in total compensation? I don’t think so.

  14. Erich Weiss


    You cited a “base pay” figure for the painter but the “total compensation” figure for the officer. What is the “total compensation” figure for the painter for comparison? Do you have a link as reference? Any idea of how to retrieve “total compensation” figures for other city positions? Sorry to trouble you for a free lesson…thanks.

  15. len raphael


    cc not as dumb as they look re tennants and passthrus.

    a. be very curious in how the poll takers tried to limit it to likely voters.

    b. were questions posed just of tennants asking how they’d vote if passed thru or not?

    c. what percentage’s of the city’s rental housing stock is rent controlled?

    d. of the rent controlled units, what’s number of likely to vote occupants

    you and i assume that most rent controlled units are renting at below market rents.

    i assume that for the many exempt units, eg. DTO condos turned into rentals, a parcel tax couldn’t be passed thru to the tennants because in the long run they’d move to other cities with cheaper rent.

    Effectively it would be a wealth transfer from property owners to the city. Rental property values would drop over time and new owners theorectically wolud make the same old rate of return. theoretically….

    or most landlords will defer maintenance and improvements.

    but maybe i’m wrong and rents would rise.

    regardless, if the RHA (rental housing assoc) blows the opportunity to mobilize anti parcel tax likely voters, it’s their vote to lose.

    (full disclosure, i’m a member of RHAssoc)

    -len raphael

  16. Dax

    Erich, I used the total compensation figure for the average officer because it was given in the newspapers several times over the past week. Given out by city officials.

    I used the base pay for the Oakland city painter because that is what we find in the Trib’s data base or data bank.

    I do not have the precise “add on” for the the regular Oakland employee.
    I might add that it varies from employee to employee due to various factors.
    Generally speaking the lower level employee may have a higher “benefit + pension” package than a higher paid employee.
    That is because the health benefit is not proportionately based on salary.
    Also you may have a single worker compared to a worker with a wife and 4 children. The family getting far more in that benefit than the single person.

    I do not have the precise Oakland figure but if it falls in the general municipal range of the area, I would expect it to be about 55 to 68 percent of base pay.

    For example, one I know, is the Golden Gate Bridge District. Their add-on package is 67% of their average salary earned.

    I would guess Oakland’s is easily over 55% and probably over 60%.

    So, if the $68,500 painter is getting a extra 60%, then his total compensation would be in the $110,000 range.

    For purposes of budgets I have often heard city council persons say $100,000 per worker when they figure how much a budget cut will cost in laid off workers.

    IF…If you used 100k then at a 60% benefit package that worker would be $62,500.

    I’m sure the HR department or the city auditor or someone has the overall average.

    My guess is that it is over 60% of salary.

    BART prior to their last contract had a average compensation of $115,000.
    That was a couple years ago.

    Looking across the USA, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2009 says that the typical State and Local government worker received a benefit package that was 52% of their wages and salaries.
    Now, that is for the entire USA and California is much higher because almost 60% of their state and local employees are unionized while the national average is around 40 percent unionized state and local government employees.

    Now, specifically in the SF, Oakland, San Jose, area, the “private sector” cost for benefits averages about 42% of salary (or to put it a different way, the salary/wages equal 70.4% and the benefits equal 29.6)

    Perhaps someone will have the official average benefit package for the typical Oakland employee as a percentage of their wages and salary.

    Noting of course, there are several standard methods of calculating this.
    Various methods count or leave outs some components.

    By the way, take a look at this interesting study and chart.

    Regarding Oakland police “total compensation”

  17. Dax

    Just so the link in my last post, near the end, is not lost, I’m going to include it here again, alone.

    It is a interesting study and comparison chart of the 2009 police pay for Oakland and other California cities.

    I’ve never seen this before.
    Take a look.

  18. Mary Hollis


    It’s not quite true that San Francisco automatically passes through any parcel tax increases to tenants. Some pass-thru, some don’t, and some have even split it and allowed a passthru of half, I believe. The text of each Prop defines it.

    It’s obviously fairer if the increase can be passed through. The load is spread wider and it increases correlation between voting and paying.

    However, it is the small landlord with maybe just one building or two who suffers most for this. Greg’s example of a landlord who owns 2,000 units is probably not going to attect much voter sympathy. He could sell of a few units to pay for the tax and still own 1,990 units.

    Len, I’m also not sure whether the unit is rent-controlled matters that much either. Even if you can freely increase the rent, that doesn’t mean that the market will bear it.

    But I suspect the CC will not want a passthru as landlords are few in number; many are corporations or live outside Oakland so cannot vote anyway.

    Maybe we should go over to the European model where it is the residents of a building who pay the local property tax and not the owners.

  19. len raphael

    successful passage of a 400 parcel tax comes down to maximizing its appeal to likely voters and each side getting out their voters.

    if the parcel tax is dedicated to public security, it will fail.

    if it’s dedicated to senior centers, after school programs, anti violence ngo’s, and protecting SEIU from cuts and layoffs, it will pass with the combined efforts of the YU’s and KF’s, SEIU, and every city council member and mayor. That assumes entire management of the campaign is done by joint Kids First and SEIU team.

  20. Erich Weiss

    If accurate then the disparity between figures is shocking…but I don’t understand where the chasm between OPD and others is occurring.
    San Jose PD pay and compensation is currently extremely comparable if not better than OPD:

    The only easily identifiable difference is employee CALPERS contributions – but SJPD makes up bit of that payment through both higher starting and “top step” salaries…a top step officer in SJ makes a few grand more than an OPD sergeant.

    What and where are the main differences then?

  21. len raphael

    The city has to shell out for a independent = impartial benefits consult familiar with muni employment to restate the compensation numbers for various comparable cities so that we are comparing apricots to apricots.

    Best way to make sure it’s independent is to budget the 100k or so to the Alameda grand jury to hire the consultant to do the work. Then publish the report.

    As long as they’re doing that, update the salary survey for non-saftey employees.

  22. gregory mcconnell

    Mary, I hear you about there being greater sympathy for a small owner versus a larger one. But let’s not miss the point of my comment. My point is that tenants benefit from the tax through increased police protection, as such, they should pay their fair share, whether they live in a building owned by mom and pop or xyz corp.

    Also, I hear the truth in the comments that if rents are at market there may not be room for an increase in the rent; that is probably mostly true about exempt newly constructed units. Nevertheless, owners of those unit have the ability to adjust their rents incrementally when the market allows. Owners of controlled units have no such option unless the law is amended to allow a pass through.

    I also want to remind everyone that the CC rejected a proposal that would have raised $3 million by allowing 200 units to buy conversion rights from the city. The proposal would have allowed the tenants in the units to continue under their rent controlled status as long as they wanted to. The individual units would be sold as the existing tenants voluntarily vacated. And as a condition of conversion if a unit or building was sold, the tenant’s rights would have been protected via restrictions that ran with the land.

    CC said no because some members wanted to force developers to agree with Inclusionary Zoning, a practice that the CA Supreme Court agreed is illegal on rental properties unless the city gives financial contributions (which they don’t have) and impractical on for sale units because we now know that selling homes to people who cannot afford them results in widespread foreclosures. (There were also some other poltical issues that I won’t go into now and will address at a future date.)

    A lot of smart people are saying we need to rethink priorities and come up with new thinking about old issues. This is one of them. We are protecting ghosts and forcing tax increases on all Oaklanders that could be softened if we looked at creative ways to get revenues where people are willing to work with the city.

  23. Daniel Schulman

    Raising taxes to hire back employees who were laid off makes no sense if you do not first fix the underlying problems. When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you have to do is stop digging.

    Even with the layoff at OPD, we still need concessions. How can we justify hiring a new officer or rehiring one on the 3% at 50 plan?

    The problems are much bigger than current budget deficits. See Daniel Borenstein’s piece for a recap –

    Long-term we need much more than some type of combination of concessions and taxes. We need to grow the underlying tax base. All we’ve seen recently is Kaplan pushing to get some more revenue from cannabis and few other things. That’s not enough, the city needs to fundamentally rethink its of redevelopment funds.

    For a starter, maybe the city should consider using redevelopment funds for say redevelopment. Let’s not overfund “affordable” housing which pays little or no taxes, let’s not use redevelopment money to pay half of city council salaries, let’s not use redevelopment money to backstop general fund deficits. Now there are some charter amendments I could support.

  24. Dax

    Daniel, That Sunday Tribune piece by Daniel Borenstein, is perhaps the best synopsis of Oakland’s fiscal catastrophe that anyone has done.

    It should be the headline story in the physical newspaper. In the online editions of the Tribune and the CC Times it doesn’t even get mentioned on their home pages.

    This is THE story now, and for the next 10 years. It dwarfs the Coliseum deal, the Merritt Bakery deal, even the latest police cut controversy or furloughs for other employees.

    A Better Oakland should have a thread dedicated to just this article.
    Everyone here should read that article 4 or 5 times and re-read it weekly.

    The city council should hold a open forum addressing just the issues in the article.

    But as we see, it doesn’t even make the home page of the Tribune or CC Times.
    You have to do a search to find it.

    Can someone tell me when and where it appears in the physical paper.

    OR… it may be that it is only to appear in Monday’s Tribune, since some articles appear a day early in the online editions.

    Regarding the article

    “To get some idea of the magnitude of employee benefit costs, consider this: For every dollar Oakland spends on city workers’ salaries, it pays another 62 cents for health care, pension and other benefits. By fiscal year 2014-15, that’s projected to grow to 77 cents.”

    While those two figures, 62% and 77% are not exactly the same type of figure as the 60% to 67% benefit/pension package I usually refer to, they end up being similar.

    Meaning, the 62% and 77% are for overall outlays the city is making while the 60% to 67% I refer to are for current employee outlays.
    I believe the two are somewhat different but in the long run amount to the same critical problem.

    “In that, police have the most expensive pensions. For every dollar the city currently spends on an officer’s salary, it spends an additional 37 cents on his pension.”
    That is 37% just for the pension, before you even take care of all the other benefits and perks

    “Don’t blame that on the downturn in the economy. The rate has been roughly the same for the past seven years. Most of the investment losses of the past couple of years have not been built into the city’s pension payments. Those increases are yet to come.
    Rather, blame the lucrative pension benefits that Oakland and most other law enforcement agencies across the state began offering their officers about eight to 10 years ago.”

    Yes yes, its about time Mike and so many others stop blaming the recent stock crash and the bankers for a huge chunk of Oakland’s fiscal problem.

    This problem would have come down the road even if the housing bubble and banking crisis had not occurred.

    This problem is NOT about some dip that will be corrected in few years.
    Not, as some have commented, “it always comes back” referring to stocks and housing prices.

    EVEN if both of those return in 5 years, Oakland still has a catastrophe working its way towards the cliff.

    The only city council person I’ve heard express panic is Ignacio De La Fuente.
    A leap, given that he was one of main council members who put Oakland on this road to destruction.

    So you have a political situation where only a fraction of the city council members realize the magnitude of the problem and less than 2% of the electorate have any idea.

    I dare say even 10% of city workers, including safety, have even a inkling of the math involved here.
    Math, meaning the locked in disaster looming ahead.

    To be sure, no mayoral candidate will address this issue head-on.
    Perata will be more than willing to ignore it as he showed during his time as the leader of the State Senate, where he presided over several years of kicking state finances down the road with fake budgets.

    Quan probably doesn’t even grasp the situation.

    The others, who knows?
    Others in the city structure, just trying to make it to retirement than hoping their PERS checks don’t bounce.

    The cash-cow, known as Oakland, is starting to run out of options to even make it to 2015.
    Resorting to selling off golf courses, city buildings and future revenues streams.

    Remember, while the police officer at $91 to $95 per hour sounded high, just think about the Oakland painter at $62 per hour worked, compared to what that same guy would get in the private sector.

  25. Dax

    I was incorrect when I said the following,

    “It should be the headline story in the physical newspaper. In the online editions of the Tribune and the CC Times it doesn’t even get mentioned on their home pages.”

    I stand corrected. I now see this article listed down below, under “Bay Area News” in the Oakland Tribune online edition.

  26. len raphael

    Dax, first thing you have to understand is that the canabis biz is popular in oakland because we really need a joint before reading or watching the news.

    Yes, the article was on front page, lower right of today’s print edition of the Trib,but the cannabis dispensaries don’t have to worry about running out of inventory, because the only people who read the tribune paper or online do it to read about shootings, gardening, and recipes. I do it for the gardening section.

    Put it this, Bornstein is the only reporter that ANG has in all of CA who understands muni and state finance. So we had to wait till he had a break writing about the state budget, LA, San Diego, Vallejo, etc. before ANG assigned him to Oakland.

    My only bitch is that he didn’t bother learning the details/twists of Oakland’s situation. For him to blithely say that the current understated deficit was sufficient for the cc to refuse a no layoff promise for more than 1 year is to ignore the Measure Y history/issues and to ignore the intense mistrust of cc by the cops engendered by a long history and the specific actions of Q and K interfering with the cops at Grant riots, putting cops at physical risk.


  27. John

    I am not unalterably opposed to any proposed tax measures on the 2010 ballot BUT I do have one very large caveat. I will NOT support any tax proposal unless City Council addresses the looming financial crisis brought on by our City’s unsustainable wages and benefits structure the details of which other commenters have already posted. And by address I don’t mean the CC promising that after the election they and the unions will talk. I mean that the CC and the unions have these very difficult negotiations before November AND have an agreement spelling out just what the unions are giving back. Only then would I believe that the CC is taking seriously our City’s financial predicament. Only then could I consider supporting any type of tax increase.

  28. Robert

    John, I agree. The city and unions need to agree and sign new contracts restructuring benefits for both current and future employees, and agree to salary freezes or better salary reductions before I would even consider voting for any new tax. The contracts can be contingent on getting one of the taxes passes to make it fair for everybody, but the city can only survive if the long term obligations are reduced.

  29. Naomi Schiff

    May I humbly suggest that people who appreciate the article consider subscribing to the paper? Let’s keep a free press going! I know the Trib is thin, but it might help if more people would subscribe. At the moment I’d say it is not worse than the Chron. It makes a huge difference to have journalists writing about this stuff.

  30. len raphael

    Rbt, the unions are dominated by 50 somethings and boomers who only have to hang on to their jobs another few years or retire now.

    Unless they see a credible threat to their vested retirement benefits, they would be better off retiring as soon they hit the minimum age, rather than give back a large piece of their vested benefits and take a current pay cut. After they retire they can find another job that doesn’t pay benefits because they’ll have medical benefits etc. for life.

  31. zac

    I can’t speak for OPD’s benefits, but I want to dispel the notion that Fire has fully paid post-medical retirement. Most of our retirees pay between $400 and $800 per month. Now I know what you’re going to say–”that’s not very much!” and “private sectors workers pay far more!” This is possibly true, but I just ask that you not move the rhetorical goalposts in your replies. The thing I always hear is that firefighters get fully paid medical after retirement. We absolutely do not.

    And, since we’re talking about restructuring salary and benefits, I just want to fire up my broken record machine and remind everyone that we’re in the middle of four years of no pay raises and that we’ve been paying THIRTEEN percent into our pensions for many, many years.

  32. Ralph

    As long as we are clearing up records, the private sector does not hand out raises like candy at halloween. I am more bothered by a city council that gives up such raises without even considering if the money is there to do it than by unions that outsmart a bunch dimwits. Since the least worker gets the same raise as the best worker, I would prefer that raises be a percent of a capped not to exceed metric.

    I don’t care what JoJo Dancer says, but people who pay into their pension to the tune of 13% are good peeps in my book.

  33. Dax

    Zac, Could you clarify your post retirement medical benefit and costs.

    Say you retire at 55.
    From age 55 to 65 who pays what.
    When you speak about $400 to $800 is that for only the retiree? spouse?
    Does the city not give you any medical benefit from age 50 to 65 if you retire.
    How about from age 65 onward for either the retiree or the spouse?

    At 65 you enter Medicare, correct?
    Part A is free, so you pay Part-B and then carry a typical supplement like Kaiser Senior Advantage.

    So does the city give you any benefit towards any of those costs.
    Or are you saying from retirement at 50-55 and beyond, you don’t get one cent for medical or dental for the rest of your life?

    Just wanted to clear that up.
    I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t do so, but just need the facts to understand what they actually do.

  34. len raphael

    Zac, someone must be getting decent post retirement medical benefits for that obligation to have already grown to 598Mill. Current cops apparently don’t get any.

    How’s about you researching who does get it and the composition of that 598Mill? hard to believe it’s entirely non safety employees.


  35. Jack B Dazzle


    As a small Landlord, I can tell you that crime is a tax on all small landlords. Every time one of our tenants are robbed, they move out. That is an incredible cost to me, and keeps me from buying more apartments in Oakland. If the parcel tax could lower the crime rate, or at least keep it from rising, I would come out ahead financially with a 360 dollar tax. If our tenants didn’t hear gunshots regularly, we could charge another 100 bucks per unit!

    However, after the city lent money to the Merritt bakery, I realized all of these tax increases are really just enabling the CC to piss away Oakland’s future. It has to stop.

    I would rather board up my apartments than give the city another dime.

  36. len raphael

    I don’t give a hoot what our cc member’s 3 different opinion surveys found re chances of passing a parcel tax (though i do think they should make those surveys public if they were paid out of discretionary funds or contributions).

    A well run Kid’s First/SEIU/OFD campaign to pull on the hearstrings of the generous and highly likely to vote North Oakland and Hills residents, combined with the ngo’s getting out the vote of tennants who would very directly feel cutbacks in social services, plus SEIU mobilizing the huge network of city workers who do live or have relatives in Oakland would have excellent odds of passing a parcel tax.

    $360/99cents/day does not feel like not a lot of money to an affluent resident with household income of +200k/year. As JQ might say, they spend much more on coffee.

    The only organized opposition would be the RHA rental housing assoc. The rest would be Oakland’s keyboard jockeys (a phrase i stole from Chris Waters).

    I’ll place my bet on Kid’s First and the SEIU.


  37. Jack B Dazzle


    The tax increase is just not happening. It is not about money anymore. It is about trust and the CC has none.

  38. TheOaklander

    Thanks to the City Council. We are already experiencing the full effect of laying off the 80 officers. Post-Layoff: 2 Homicides (1 in Downtown!), 1 Officer Involved Shooting, and 1 Officer being shot at with a sniper rifle from a highrise. It’s too bad we cannot vote some of our councilmembers off the board.

  39. Chris Vernon

    As reasonable as the objections to giving the City of Oakland more tax money may be – what do you propose we do if and when the crime rate rockets upward? What do you do when your house is burglarized and the only option is to report that online with no real possibility of OPD even looking into the situation, let alone solving the case. Do we just watch community policing be dismantled? It has made a huge difference in the quality of life in beat 11X in North Oakland. What do we do when Batts takes a hike? What are some real solutions, some creative ideas, as opposed to just carping?

    I fully understand the jaundiced view of the City’s lack of financial responsibility, but wonder about the glaringly obvious public safety concerns that seem to be given very little attention in this discussion to this point.

    I think that $360 a year is a small price to pay for real police and violence prevention measures. Amidst all the fully justified complaining about Measure Y, the fact that the crime rate has gone down steadily over the past few years seems to be ignored. Might there not be some connection there?

    Is there some way to ensure that the money is spent as needed – addressing both fiscal responsibility AND public safety in a city with BOTH issues? This seems to me a larger question that needs answering.

  40. Ralph

    If you want to see people mobilize quickly trying throwing a $1/day parcel tax at them. Council has wasted our dollars, giving them more is not going to change that. What was that definition of insanity again…

    Puh-lease. These post lay-off shootings did not happen because 80 officers are without jobs. Fearmongering is such an unattractive quality. Some people are just bad seeds.

  41. Dax


    “I think that $360 a year is a small price to pay for real police and violence prevention measures”

    I’m getting tired of people making such comments. Either from people in the OPD or otherwise.

    Do you ever realize that there are many people who simply “DO NOT HAVE $360″ ?

    Yes, many people out here are right on the edge. Stop saying its a “small price”.
    It may be for you, but it will be the breaking point for many others.
    People who have cut back everywhere they can and are still going backwards.

    I’m getting sick and tired of hearing about the need to keep city employees fully paid or being in despair when when a member of a safety department is cut from $188,000 to $178,000 compensation.

    Three to five times the compensation of what some residents are getting while being asked for another $360..

    Or are you suggesting that anyone with a income under $50,000 be exempt from the $360 tax?

  42. Ralph

    I have lived in places where the typically PD response to a home robbery is complete the form online.

    Just a few years, I had to download a form from the PD and send it back via either mail or fax, if I recall correctly. You know where this was? Would you like some help? A Better _?_. Yep, right here in river city. So how does my life change.

    The larger questions that need to be answered, 1) Why do people fall for unfunded mandates such as Kids First? Supporters tell you that there will be no new taxes, but when the city is obligated to meet core services such as public safety but can not because they are spending over $10MM/yr on unaccountable NGOs and giving these same NGOs $4MM in raises even as we cut employees, the council has no choice but to raise taxes, 2) Why does the city not require more from its employees in terms of pension contrbutions, 3) Why does the city overpay work, see the $70K/yr meter maid…I am sure others can find more

    On a separate note, who calls 911 after the fact? I thought I read that individuals are clogging 911 lines to report robberies after the fact. Is this true? At this point it is no longer an emergency and the regular line should do.

  43. Marleenlee

    You guys should read the $360 tax proposal. It promises absolutely NOTHING. Not one more cop. It doesn’t promise that there won’t be
    more layoffs. It doesn’t promise minimum staffing. So with the measure y fix and this new tax you’d be paying $450 a year and would likely get nothing in return. Keep that in mind.

  44. len raphael

    ML, the proposal doesn’t mention cops because it will not get the support of SEIU and the NGO’s if it is dedicated to cops. No matter what the courts decide on your suite, you taught the City not to blatantly lie.

  45. Ralph

    So, I have informed the city council of my intent to vote no across the board on new taxes, now I need some clarification.

    Does this windfall go into the budget that is available to those meddling kids? Do the kids get a 3% cut even as teh city is cutting employees and services?

  46. zac

    OK folks, here’s the skinny on retirement medical for firefighters. First, a little background on the medical benefit for active employees. The city pays for employees and their dependents to be insured to the Kaiser level. If a a member chooses to be insured by a plan other than Kaiser, he/she pays the difference, so many of our members pick up that spread on their own. This co-pay for non-Kaiser plans is a concession we made last year IN ADDITION to the 13% payback and IN ADDITION to working four more hours per week for zero dollars.

    In retirement, the city pays to the Kaiser level FOR THE MEMBER ONLY. So, retirees have to cover not only the spread between Kaiser and the plan they choose, but also the total cost for any dependents they have. Most firefighters are married and–especially with the allowable dependent age being raised to 26–most firefighters also have a kid or two that they insure. You only get your retirement medical fully paid if you are a single person with no kids who used Kaiser.

    But wait, there’s more… Every year the city raises the amount they will pay towards retirement medical premiums by no more than $100/mo. If insurance premiums rise faster than that, then the amount that the retiree pays will begin to grow, so benefits have the potential to worsen over time.

    It’s a great benefit; we have great medical coverage. But most retirees pay between $400 and $800 per month, which is a far cry from the “you guys have full medical benefits forever” line that is so often thrown around.

    I can’t comment on the cops except to say that in the past–and maybe the present, I’m not sure–they got a $5000 or $10000 lump sum put into a medical savings account for every year they worked above a certain seniority level. It was a retention bonus for seasoned cops, allowing them to have a chunk of money to put towards medical costs upon their retirement. The firefighters do not and have not ever had anything of this sort.

    So, it’s not simple. People pay a lot of different amounts, and those amounts change every year, and not by a predictable percentage. I’d love to hear more about how the cops structure their retiree medical benefits. Anybody know?

  47. Ralph

    I would love to hear why the Messiah has not done anything that helps healthcare cost containment. Retiree healthcare costs are a huge problem in pension plans. Heck escalating healthcare costs are a problem period.

    All that aside, without reading the details of all the city comp plans, OFD total comp plan sounds the most reasonable. And your union members are so well spoken and articulate. :)

  48. Dax

    Zac, Thank you for the extensive answer.


    I’ve got to say the following.
    From my point of view, you are FULLY covered.
    In fact, you are beyond fully covered.

    #1. The retiree is essentially fully covered by Kaiser forever…
    You retire fully covered, get up to $100 a year for rising costs and then by the time you hit 65 you go into Medicare.
    Correct? you are eligible for Medicare?
    After that you only need to pay Part B and a typical Senior Advantage program like Kaiser offers.

    Can your medical dollars be used to pay for Kaiser Senior Advantage. It only costs about $115 a month.
    Can your medical dollars be used for Medicare Part B ?
    If not, then regarding Part B, you are like 90% of the population so I’d hardly call that not being covered. That part can run from about $90 and up. Since your retirement will be so large, over 85K you will pay about $125 for Medicare Part B.

    #2. I don’t care about your spouse not being covered after you retire.
    Almost all spouses have worked, can work, or are working, and should not be covered forever after the retiree stops working.
    Additionally the spouse should NOT be able to retire at 50 or 55 just because you do. Thus she should NOT get continuing medical coverage from your job or your retirement. She/he will need to get it from their own employment, or pay out of pocket like everyone else.
    How crazy is that concept…

    #3. Any children you may have.
    A) If you still have any children under age 18 who are still in school then I might be willing to cover them thru age 22 IF they are in college.
    Forget this age 26 business.

    Your quote..
    “It’s a great benefit; we have great medical coverage. But most retirees pay between $400 and $800 per month, which is a far cry from the “you guys have full medical benefits forever” line that is so often thrown around. ”

    I don’t know why those guys are spending between $400 to $800 a month, unless they just choose to have a more expensive plan. What was called the Cadillac plan in the health care debate.

    Everyone in my extended family has or had Kaiser and it is more than adequate for Oakland employees. Anyone wants more, pay for it.

    The way I see it, you are indeed FULLY covered forever.
    My God, you are covered even beyond what I thought.

    The city of Oakland seems to have lost all sense of reality when it comes to benefits.

    OK, that is my view.

    Even though I don’t agree with your view about the “limits” of your post retirement coverage, I greatly appreciate your detailed explanation.

    BTW, I have or had 3 OFD retirees in my family. Grandfather and two uncles.
    One still alive and covered under the medical.

    By way of comparison, my brother, a retired police officer in another area just recently made it to 65.
    Under his retirement he did not get coverage from retirement to age 65 where he got on Medicare.
    ( I don’t know if he got some other savings plan or fund allotment for that 5 to 10 year period between 55 and 65. I’ve never asked him about that.
    He essentially went uncovered during those years. Very dangerous.)

    So I think your current plan is more than fair. “Fully covered” by any definition I would hold.

    The only thing I need to know is whether you get any funds to cover your Kaiser “Senior Advantage” (or similar) and whether you get anything for Medicare Part B.

  49. zac


    I understand that you’re angry about our benefits, and I’m not trying to change your mind. I’m just hoping to put correct information into the public debate. What I want to do is dispel the myth that firefighters and their families are medically covered forever.

    Looking at my non OFD-friends, I see an almost universal trend. One partner works at a job that provides health care for both of them, and the other works at a job that doesn’t. Providing medical benefits for one’s spouse is certainly not unique to firefighters. And providing medical care to one’s kids is also not unique to firefighters. I understand that you’d like to “forget this 26 business” but it is federal law at this point. You don’t understand why retirees pay between $400 and $800 a month; it’s because they’re covering their loved ones.

    As for Medicare, we pay into it like anyone else and can take advantage of it like anyone else. I don’t know specifics beyond that.

    And Ralph, as for why the Messiah hasn’t done anything about cost containment…as a Jew I’d tell you it’s because He hasn’t arrived yet. If by the Messiah you mean Obama, then I’d blame obstructionist Republicans.

  50. Dax

    Zac, As I was writing my post, I did seem to remember that age 26 clause being recently changed.

    However, there is NO need to cover anyone else in he family if you are retired. I don’t believe that is part of the law.

    Just because you get to retire at 50 or 55 does not mean your wife should also get to retire at such a early age. That is just insane. So she needs to work to age 66 or 67 like the rest of us. At her own work she can get medical or pay it out of pocket.
    On average, she’ll typically be a few years younger in the case of male FFs.
    Thus you could have a FF retiring at 55 with a 45 to 50 year old wife. NO way we should even think about paying her medical for 15 to 20 years.

    She can work and pay here own medical for those years.
    Apparently that is the way it is. Thankfully.
    Thus, I don’t consider that extra $400 to $800 to even be part of this equation.

    In short, you are indeed fully covered for life.
    If, as I suspect, you get your typical Kaiser type Senior Advantage supplemental payment of $115 covered by the city, then that is just a bonus. As would the payment of Medicare Part B.

    Let me give you an example of life in the real world for even other public employees and their spouses.

    My father was a public employee in the STRS retirement system. Because he was not on the Social Security system he did not pay into that. My mother, like so many of her era was a stay at home housewife, very common.
    So she never accumulated the Soc. Sec. Credits to qualify for Medicare on her own. The state came up with a bill to cover the “workers” who were teachers, but not their spouses because no one ever thought about the few who had spouses who were female since most teachers were female with males spouses who had their own career.

    Anyway I won’t go into all the details, but if you think you aren’t getting treated as grandly as you would like, think about this.
    My mother in her 90′s not only pays for Kaiser Senior Advantage, at $115, and Part B at $130, but also has to pay for Medicare Part “A”. Medicare Part A alone costs over $500 per month.
    Thus to be fully covered under Medicare she spends over $750 per month before even paying for co-pays or medicine.

    So don’t start telling me about wives and children of OFD retirees not being fully covered from 50 to 65.

    When a OFD spouse reaches 65 she will be covered, not needing to pay Part A, the expensive part.

    You don’t know how good you have it or how difficult it is for many others.
    I have many friends who are public employees and I am always stunned by how out of touch they are with what other people receive as benefits, pension and health care.
    Then they’ll tell me, “Well, we don’t get paid as much as people in the private sector”
    Dream on, that was the case 40 years ago.
    Study after study in the past 10 years has shown public sector employees getting higher salaries for the same work. Plus all the huge benefit and pension packages.

    Yes, many in the public are rightly indignant when we see suggestions that we should pay more taxes to keep such largess in place, while at the same time we are suffering far greater losses of income, and benefits.

    Getting real tired night after night in the news of seeing “public employee” union after union all crying about the cutbacks and renegotiations. Every night on the news. Unless a big private place like NUMI is shut down, you hear very little about the thousands of private sector employees troubles.

    So yes, nerves are getting frayed.
    A tax is just another “pay cut” to those of us who have to dig deeper to come up with the money.
    $360… is $30 a month more, or should I say $30 a month less to spend.
    Out the window goes that dental cleaning and other basic things so many public employees take for granted in their benefit package.
    Not only do we not get that, but the new taxes may actually preclude us from even being able to afford it from our own funds.

  51. zac


    I don’t think I’m making most of the arguments that you’re attributing to me. I’m not saying that firefighters shouldn’t have to pay for their spouses post-retirement. I’m just answering the question of what our medical benefit currently are, which was asked by someone on this forum.

    I’m not suggesting that my wife should get to retire early, but I am pointing out that even in many non-safety households, one of the partners supplies health insurance for the other. This is not uncommon, and it’s the reason why people have the flexibility to start small businesses, do contract work, change jobs, and other things that keep the economy greased.

    And you certainly haven’t heard me complaining that my pay and benefits are inadequate. I love my job and I feel fortunate to work in a city that’s as great as this one, warts and all. I appreciate my pay and benefits enormously, and I don’t feel that we suffer in comparison to private sector employees.

    I guess I’m just hoping to tone down the hysterics a little bit. We can all work towards solutions, but it becomes much harder to do so when people put words in our mouths that make us seem ungrateful or unreasonable. Local 55 takes its duty to the citizens seriously; we’ve negotiated contracts cooperatively and in good faith, and we’ll continue to do so.

  52. Dax

    Yes, I do appreciate your explanations.
    We all need to understand exactly what is and isn’t the case with regards to salary, benefits and pensions.
    For example I often hear people complaining about public employees, including police and fire, running up their pensions by doing lots of overtime in the last year. I know that is not true. Yes there have been other ways of unfairly boosting pensions, but OT is not one of them.

    My reaction is sometimes engendered by some public employee unions squawking when any curtailment of compensation is in the cards and then hearing suggestions that they should remain “whole” via the residents paying “more” in taxes from their already beleaguered financial circumstances.

    Also, because of media coverage, it seems we are never without some public employee groups bemoaning their situation.
    Today it is AC Transit, Last week it was OPD, then we’ll hear from the Mt. Diablo School Dist.
    We tire of hearing one group after another, with the usual suggesting of greater parcel taxes, bridge tolls, sales taxes, and a multitude of fees.
    From East Bay MUD to the Golden Gate Bridge Dist., every single public entity seems to think the answer to their problem is to get more money from the public.
    Hold the line on their compensation cuts by cutting the public’s income via taxes, tolls, and fees.

    It is relentless and taking place at the very time the private sector employees are hurting in a far greater fashion.

    So we probably do enter into discussions with a attitude.
    The threats of service cuts, safety issues, and the like have become so pervasive that I don’t react any more.

    As long as Oakland is paying “traffic painters” $68,500 for a 37.5 hour week, with a 100% retirement at age 60 (23 to 60) and $425 monthly medical for life, I am hardly going to vote for any parcel or sales tax.
    To hear council members say they have cut and cut and cut to the bone is just foolish talk.

    You see, there are two sides to this story. The general public is only beginning to become aware of the issues and what has transpired in employee compensation over the past decade.

    Still, I do appreciate your work, your attitude, and your efforts here, to fully inform us of the true facts.
    Such as those regarding spousal and childrens medical benefits after retirement.

    I do have one question following on the heels of my previous posts.

    After retirement, what do you get, if anything, in dental benefits?

    Also, I would still like to know if you get a sum of money, like for the years between 55 and 65, that continues after age 65 and can be used to fully cover 1) Medicare supplemental like Kaiser Senior Advantage and 2.) possibly be used for Medicare Part “B”.

    You should know about those two aspects of your care after retirement.

    My understanding is that regular Oakland employees get up to $425 medical per month in retirement and they can use it to cover a policy like Kaiser Senior Advantage $115, but I don’t know if they can also use it for Medicare Part “B”.
    Nor do I know if they have any dental coverage after retirement.

    Of course, as we all know, they are all given a $500 monthly car allowance in retirement :-)
    Oh no wait, I have that wrong, the car allowance only goes to the owner of the Merritt Bakery who drives a Ferrari while the city loans him $150,000…
    Or so the rumor goes. One never knows.

    But hey, Oakland is rather skimpy compared to Bell, California.
    An amazing story of fiscal abuse that the public is only now learning about.
    Population 40,000, where the city manager gets nearly $800,000 and the police chief gets $450,000 per year.
    I don’t know how long those salaries have been in place but if they can just keep them for 12 months (legally) then they are home free for life if their pension is based on highest years pay.
    Imagine if the police chief is near 30 years, he could get over $400,000 for life.

    Seems the chief has some mix of pension and salary. Unclear about the $800,000 city manager. Load up the truck, as they say.

    And we think we’re gonna curtail corruption in Afghanistan, where they have perfected it for centuries.
    But I digress.

  53. David

    Can we get a proposal on the ballot to send Oakland immediately into Chapter 9 bankruptcy?

    Because it’s better to rip the band-aid sooner rather than later. There is no economic recovery, there is no more tax money to extract from the remaining few employed, there is no way to make good on the 8% annual pension expected returns, there is no way to pay painters $70K/year or cops $150K/year. Period.

    Take the pain now or drag it out another 5 years denying the obvious.

    I know I’m not the only one like this. I have $19.53 leftover this month after paying the bills (including an unexpected medical bill). $30/month for a parcel tax is…just…not…possible. Period. I don’t know how this can’t be more clear to these people.

  54. Ralph

    David, David, David…the person from from council and OPOA who just read your last paragraph saw the following – what does he mean he doesn’t have $30 a month for a parcel tax. He had $19.53 and if it weren’t for the medical bill he would have had the full nut.

  55. Dax

    Plus, he can look at David’s $19.53 surplus and and say , “well we can tax him the $30 a month and since its deductible, David will recover the other $11.47 in lower taxes.

    Leaving David technically solvent each month.

    PS, don’t try to tell them about a unexpected medical bill. You see, they live in a world, like their city employees, where there are no medical bills. Medical is covered.

    They think someone paying $515 out of pocket for Kaiser is just some fiction.
    EVERYONE is covered in Oakland’s City employee world.
    Medical, 14 paid holidays, and 37.5 hour work weeks… just normal.

  56. David

    True. I’d rather give my last $19.53 to the Church this Sunday and thank the Lord I have a paycheck on Monday.

    Yeah, the joke of course is the “unexpected” medical bill. As anyone who actually has a budget/planning capability (which does NOT include ANYONE in city government), we all know that those “unexpected” bills have a habit of averaging out a certain amount every month (especially when you have kids like me). Hence the idea of a “reserve” or “savings account,” another idea that is foreign to our betters in government.

  57. avis

    Tenants always vote for these parcel taxes and the property owners always end up paying.

  58. len raphael

    Dax, sit down, take three deep breaths.

    Did you see the Trib article on Neldams closing without refunding two wedding cake deposits?

    Per the article, one of the brides to be was a human resources mgr for our fair city who ended up buying her cake at the Merritt.


    My deepest sympathies to Ms Yvonne Hudson for her $300 loss (or her credit card company).

    According to the ANG’s database of government employees, Ms. Hudson is paid a mere 150,000/year by the Oakland taxpayers for a job that in private industry would pay closer to 75/80k. But then in private industry Ms Hudson wouldn’t be able to retire at 55 with 2.5% vesting based on her last one or was it three years of pay.

    So poor thing will only get a pension of at least 50% of 138k = 69000/year after 20 years. But if she works 30 years like some of us, 75% of 138k = 103,000/year plus medical for entire family for life.

    If she’s smart, she’ll get another degree or just let the deflation defying Oakland COLA’s waft her up into the higher brackets by the power of compounding.

    Mustn’t forget the lifetime medical benefits she and her now husband will also get if she works for Oakland for at least ten years.

    Good to see her loyalty to shop Oakland. If Neldams had gotten the bailout that Merritt Bakery received, maybe it would have delivered those cakes. But then, Neldam’s owner doesn’t qualify because he doesn’t drive a Ferrari.
    Hudson Yvonne S Manager, Human Resources Retirement Services $138,689 $1,718 $9,925 $150,332 Oakland

    -len raphael


  59. len raphael

    Why go thru all the expense of collecting and enforcing another parcel tax; and deciding who qualifies for the exemptions and who doesn’t.

    Just provide a database of city employees and we can each adopt one.

    SEIU can provide pictures and a short bio so we can make a choice that makes us feel warm and cozy as we personally transfer our retirement savings to them.

    Set up an auto pay to transfer $1/day from our personal bank accounts to one of their’s.

    -len raphael

  60. len raphael

    Over the years, have watched our bungling efforts at economic development.

    Never tried to provide high quality basic city services. Always looking for the gimmick, the get rich scheme.

    We’ve already moved on from solar panels to industrial marijuana growing.

    This will end like most of the other cockamamie city council attempts to play at economic development here, except for some of the more traditonal routes.

    All of which i wouldn’t give a hoot about, because this time cc hasn’t thrown any of the seemingly endless supply of Redevelopment money at the marijuana industry. (But no doubt there will soon be RDA “loans”)

    I do have a stake in their fantasy that we can increase taxes on the commercial growing to the highest in California without it

    a. hurting medical marijuana users like me

    b. encouraging the growers and dispensaries to find lower tax, lower operating cost locations

  61. David

    So, just for kicks, I decided to go over my budget expenses as a percent of my income for the year.

    Taxes (of all varieties, of which property tax is about 20% of the taxes paid): 28%

    Mortgage interest: 16%
    Home repair (I bought a “fixer” in 2008, and guess what? still fixing:) : 9.5%
    Child care: 8.5%
    Groceries: 6.7%
    Medical: 6.3%
    Entertainment: 3.5%
    Utilities: 3%
    Auto: 2.85%
    Insurance: 2.6%

    And then the rest is minor expenses, charity, clothes, bus fare, etc.

    Taxes are the single largest expense by far. Even if you combine housing expenses, taxes eat more of my income than my mortgage AND house repairs.

    Or Taxes take up pretty much the same amount of income as every other major expense category, ex-housing.

    And our gov’t workers and their unions want me to pay more?! No.

  62. len raphael

    Industrial dope growing is a good idea because it will slow down the proliferation of grow houses in residential areas.

    Even if you could inspect and license the fire risks away, the reduction of mistaken home take overs, and bad actors visiting/hanging out in residential areas makes the industrial move worth doing.

    But then the cc members can’t stop themselves from killing the golden goose by proposing higher taxes on industrial growing. no doubt they’ll require them to hire union for everything.

    similar to what they did with parking: saw the good sense of Shoup, but twisted it into a revenue raiser.

    Surprising city council hasn’t come up with a special restaurant tax and then mandatory health insurance like SF has.

  63. Dax

    Len, Just saw your post from yesterday.

    “According to the ANG’s database of government employees, Ms. Hudson is paid a mere 150,000/year by the Oakland taxpayers for a job that in private industry would pay closer to 75/80k. But then in private industry Ms Hudson wouldn’t be able to retire at 55 with 2.5% vesting based on her last one or was it three years of pay.

    So poor thing will only get a pension of at least 50% of 138k = 69000/year after 20 years. But if she works 30 years like some of us, 75% of 138k = 103,000/year plus medical for entire family for life.

    You seem to be mistaken about Oakland’s retirement policy.

    Prior to 2004 it used 2.0% credit for each year worked.

    Your calculations indicate it is now only 2.5%……

    Oh, no, no, NO, we can’t be so cheap.
    NO, the new rate instituted in 2004 was a 35% leap, from 2.0%— bypassing sensible jumps to 2.2 (10%) or 2.4 (20%) and instead hit 2.7%(+35%).

    So if the employee in question worked for 30 years, she would receive the following… 30 x 2.7% or 81% for life.
    On $138,000 that would be $111,780 for life. Also included would be another $425 per month towards medical costs.

    The total of the two is $116,880.
    If the employee began working for the city at age 25, they could take that beginning at age 55 and according to CalPERS data, the average woman retiring at 55 would collect that as follows.

    “Here are the CalPERS life expectancy data for miscellaneous members:

    >>If the current age is 55, the retiree is expected to live to be 81.4 if male, and 85 if female. ”

    Thus she would collect that $116,880 for 30 years, on average. That is $3,506,000 over her expected retirement.

    Of that, $869,400 was the hidden “Golden Parachute” retroactive gift that the CC gave to the city workers in 2004.
    That is the give-a-way gift that back in 2004 and even until this day was never written about in the Tribune.

    Imagine thousands of employees beginning in 2004, being given essentially parting gifts of between $100,000 and a Million dollars, and the Oakland Tribune ever even devoting a article about it, leaving 99% of the Oakland population unaware it ever happened.

    Makes the Al Davis debacle look like child’s play.

    Don’t even mention that the infamous Ms Edgerly benefited by over $700,000 due to the same clause.

    No one ever thought it important to inform the public.
    The overall cost of this disastrous policy is multiple times more expensive than the much publicized Bell, California $780,000 city manager’s pay.

    So, anyway, its 2.7% for each year.
    Almost as high as the 3.0% for safety employees. (At least with those workers their is some reasoning behind the higher rate and lower age) I don’t agree with that either, but I’ve always said the regular employee’s 2.7 is more egregious relative to what it was before the huge boost.

    BTW, several current CC members voting members when the huge boost was passed.
    Including IDLF who now is leading the charge to take it back to 2.0%… but still leaving the current employees to get 2.7% credit for all their years between now and retirement.

    Funny how all when the boost was made, all prior years were boosted, but if we change back to 2.0, all future years worked won’t get the lower rate.

    A fair plan would have given the following.
    Say, 14 prior years, left at 2.0, then from 2004 to 2011 (7 years) be credited at 2.7% and the final 9 years at 2.0% after everyone realized 2.7% was crazy.

    Thus getting 64.9% for a 30 year career.
    Instead that person will get 81% for life.
    Retroactive, only working when it favors the city worker, not the taxpayer.
    Why is that?

    And they want $360 more to keep those Golden Parachutes in place? I don’t think so.

    While were at it, NO on the $195 school parcel tax. Said to be put in place to raise teachers salaries.

    What about the nearly $600 a year, $50 a month cut in pay they are giving the home owners? Many of whom make far less than any of the city or school employees.

    These people are sick. Just sick if they think this stuff is gonna get a 66.7% vote.
    How do they think I’m suppose to pay my $500 Kaiser bill? You see, unknown to them, people out in the real world, don’t get their Kaiser for free.

    And a city employee posting here had the gall to label me as “bitter”… while he sits there with fully paid medical, dental, pension, and a $100K salary.

    To many city employees are completely out of touch with the real world.
    They actually think we should sit here, spend another $600 a year, eliminating dental visits, just so they can be kept “whole” in their compensation.

    Think again. We have a right to be bitter if that is what they expect us to pay.

  64. Dax

    Look, I think I should add, that Ms Hudson is not at fault for anything I know of. In fact, I would applaud her for trying to support a Oakland business.
    I believe I have spoken to her about some issue in the past year and she was helpful with some piece of information.
    More helpful and forthcoming than some others I have dealt with.

    I only used her salary in my example because it was mentioned previously in the thread. We could have used any employee.
    As far as I know, she is a excellent employee who operates with the instruction and mandate she is given. Though I may disagree with the over-all compensation in the city as well as the pension plans, I seldom try to pin any fault on a given employee.

    If I were in her position, I would do the best job I could, as I expect she does, and I’d take the pay and pension agreed upon.

    No, I think our city council and the mayor are the ones who set the tone for how financially sound our city is to be run.
    They, together with the employee union leadership, are the ones who got us into this mess. The economy playing only a later role in the decade long process.

    I think its better to use job titles or job classifications rather than individual employees in examples.

  65. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you Dax, I think that would be a good rule of thumb. I was going to say something about this.

  66. ralph

    This does bring up a question; when the judged ruled that this data must be public, couldn’t he have equally ruled that position and salary info sans name must be disclosed? I would make the exception for elected officials, why I am not sure. After all there is only one elected mayor, one auditor, ….

  67. MarleenLee

    The whole argument against releasing the information dealt with privacy arguments. As I recall the rulings all the way down the line (superior court, appellate court and California Supreme Court) held that the public’s right to know trumped any privacy interests.

  68. len raphael

    SEIU named specific City employee in its color glossy mailer of a few weeks ago asking us to pay more taxes so City employees could keep our city livable.

    As I remember the Contra Costa Times lawsuit, the court upheld its assertion that government employees have no right to privacy about their pay because we the voters are their paymasters.

    If a city employee wants their compensation to be private, they’re free to work in private industry.

    It’s a good thing to use specific names in this discussion about compensation. If someone is willing to tell us that Ms Hudson does the work of 2 highly competent, highly experienced HR managers, then we can feel ok that our city’s limited funds are efficiently used in her case.

    I’ll continue to use specific names whether they’re for elected officials or civil service.

    -len raphael

  69. len raphael

    Dax, you shouldn’t feel bad about anything you said because you didn’t say anything about MS Hudson other than she’s grossly overpaid like most City of Oakland employees :)

    I don’t blame her anymore than I do those pigs, oops greedy cops.

    Yes, this is a “personal” attack on all of our elected officials over the past two decades or so who led us right into this disaster.

    But now that i think of it, what is Ms Hudson’s job description? If it includes recommending pay scales …..

  70. V Smoothe Post author

    Len, if you want to continue to pick on individual city employees, then you’re going to have to find somewhere else to do it. That is not acceptable behavior on this blog. I don’t want to hear another word about Ms. Hudson.

  71. len raphael

    V, you didn’t express any concern about attempts here to out some of the self described cops and firefighters names and compensation who posted here.

    Double standard for cops or just for obnoxious self described cops and firefighters?

    -len raphael

  72. len raphael

    The history of the lawsuit that forced all the state and local govts to list compensation by name is worth reviewing.

    It was a very hard legal battle, funded best as i can tell mostly by the then Contra Cost Times and later by ANG. It is the only reason I feel ok about paying for my Tribune subscription, in the unrealistic hope they’ll do something like that again.

    Sanjiv, has his faults like the rest of us, but one of his strengths is that he’s been around for 15 years exclusively following oakland muni govt. don’t think there is any other reporter or blogger who can claim that.

    V, i don’t like reposts, but Sanjiv doesn’t have a website to link to.

    “Oakland had a smaller-scale salary scandal in 2002. Jesse Taylor wrote this column in Urbanview (now defunct).

    Two years later, the Oakland City Council voted 6-2 to stop releasing salaries of city employees. The six yes votes: Henry Chang (at-large), Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5), Nancy Nadel (District 3), Larry Reid (District 7), Dick Spees (District 4), and Danny Wan (District 2).

    Desley Brooks was the only council member to vote for release of the salaries. Jane Brunner voted to release salaries higher than $100,000.

    The Contra Costa Times (which owned The Montclarion) sued the City of Oakland. Their attorney, Karl Olson, of Ram and Olson in S. F. defeated the city in Alameda County Superior Court.

    The city dropped out of the suit, paying more than $150,000 in legal fees to its own outside attorneys and the fees of Karl Olson as the prevailing attorney.

    Karl Olson won at both the Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court. Had that case not been won, the scandal in the City of Bell might never have come to light.

    I played a minor part in that lawsuit by filing a declaration and submitting evidence that the City of Oakland had released salary information to me since 1992, five years before the Sunshine Ordinance made that a guaranteed right.

    But had the Contra Costa Times (then owned by Lesher Communications) not put up the money for the lawsuit, and had not Thomas Peele, their investigative reporter, pursed the story with bulldog determination, who knows what kinds of outrageous salaries would have been paid with public money.

    The second column is from Chip Johnson of the S. F. Chronicle.

    For the record, it should be noted that John Russo?s salary was determined to be within the City Council authorized pay range for the City Attorney position.

    Edited to remove a substantial amount of copyrighted material that had been reprinted without permission. Len, you should know better than that. – V