So the Council last night approved the Mayor’s funding request for $7.7 million in Measure Y money to pay for a new police recruitment package. It’s always disturbing when the Council makes bad decisions, although rarely surprising. Last night was especially disappointing for me because they spent like two hours hashing out just what an irresponsible move this is, to the point where it was pretty crystal clear to everyone in the room that this is going to cause a lot of pain down the road.
Desley Brooks characterized the city’s use of Measure Y funds to date as an abuse of the public trust, and she’s absolutely right:
As I pointed out yesterday, this isn’t the first time we’ve raided Measure Y money to fund recruitment efforts, and there were promises last time around that the money would be paid back as well. City Administrator Deborah Edgerly explains the situation:
Okay, so here’s what’s going on. The Council approved a funding package last night that has been modified from the Mayor’s original plan. In the modified version, all the money initially will come from Measure Y funds, but theoretically, every officer that doesn’t get staffed to a Measure Y position will later have their recruitment and training costs paid back to Measure Y out of the General Fund. The idea that we’re going to split the money between Measure Y and the General Fund is, frankly, preposterous. As you saw above, the City made that promise two years ago and broke it. And with the General Fund facing a hefty deficit this year, there is certainly no reason to assume they’ll keep it this time. Jane Brunner seemed to get that:
The discussion from Dellums’s Public Safety Director Lenore Anderson and Police Chief Wayne Tucker made it pretty clear that they have no intention of paying back a penny. Instead, what they’re going to do is just claim that every new officer they hire is a Measure Y officer. Seriously:
So, when Measure Y was sold to the voters, we were told that it would pay for 63 new police officers. These positions would allow every beat in Oakland to have its own problem solving officer, and add 6 new members to a special crime reduction team. 27 of those positions have not yet been filled. The department is short 75 officers total. But now, in an attempt to get Measure Y to pay for the entire recruitment and training package, Chief Tucker has declared that all 75 new officers will be called Measure Y officers. The Council is on board.
I realize that this wasn’t an easy choice for anyone on the Council. People are clamoring for more police, and all the headlines have told them that this is a vote on whether or not to hire more police. The local press has derided them for their desire to even vet the proposal at all. Anyone who voted against the proposal would surely be in for a stream of invective from both the media and their constituents. I can see the headlines now “So and so opposes hiring more police!”. Making good choices in this environment is tough.
But our elected officials have a responsibility to do what’s best for Oakland in the long term, whether or not that makes people angry at them today. This was clearly not what the voters were promised with Measure Y, and clearly not what those of us who took the time to study the legislation before heading to the polls thought we were voting for. The Council has put us in a position where we will be obligated to cough up literally millions extra of dollars annually in a few years to cover the basic costs of public safety, and in doing so, has failed the citizens of Oakland.
More than one person has told me recently, during discussions about both Measure Y and Measure DD, “I will never vote for another bond measure in this city again.” I’m not quite ready to make that commitment, but I am certainly sympathetic to the sentiment. I can say that I will not vote for another bond measure or tax increase without some major changes to the City Council. These members have betrayed the public trust and failed to keep their promises to Oakland one too many times.
And an administrative note: I’m way behind on responses to e-mails and comments, but I’m doing my best to catch up. I apologize to those who have written and not heard back. And I know that my heavy use of video lately is problematic for the hearing impaired, as well as those who don’t have speakers or can’t watch streaming media from the computers they read the blog from. I will put together transcripts of the video clips I’ve posted on the blog as soon as I get a chance.