Union perspectives on employee concessions

There was a lot of talk in the comments section of my post about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s proposal to basically shut down the library system about employee compensation, and what kind of pay cut is reasonable to ask of City employees.

I don’t recall anyone coming out and saying what they think would make for reasonable concessions. There were, however, a couple of comments suggesting that concessions should be whatever it takes to close the budget deficit.

So I played around with the numbers a little bit yesterday. It’s difficult to get a firm number for total employee costs, since, as I’ve noted before, the Mayor’s budgets omit most of the information contained in normal budgets, such as the employees by position by department and fund, and personnel versus non-personnel costs by program. However, from what I was able to cobble together from various sources, it would take somewhere in the neighborhood of an 85% reduction in compensation (including benefits) to close the $58 million General Fund deficit only through concessions of non-sworn workers.

How much do City workers cost?

The chart below shows the average total personnel costs to the City for police, firefighters, and civilian employees, as explained in the budget facts (PDF).

Police, on average, cost $191,390 a year: $104,026 for salary, $43,164 for health benefits, and $44,200 for pensions. Firefighters, on average, cost a little bit less than that, $185,703 annually: $109,196 for salary, $48,150 for medical, and $28,367 for pensions. Non-sworn workers costs an average of $99,870 per year: $63,634 for salary, $22,040 for health, and $14,196 for pensions.

What do the unions say?

Anyway. It seemed fair, if we’re going to be discussing compensation, to include the union perspective in the conversation. The videos below show testimony from representatives of the City’s civilian unions at recent City Council budget meetings.

One thing that I think is important to note is that the testimony seems to suggest that negotiations are not going well at all. I have heard a lot of people, including Councilmembers, say that we basically don’t need to worry about Scenario A because it assumes no concessions from the unions and of course there will be plenty of concessions. I don’t feel nearly so comfortable making that assumption.

The position being expressed by the civilian unions at this point is basically that they are willing to give more in terms of concessions than they have over the last few years, but only if sworn employees take equivalent cuts. It’s a reasonable position, but one that makes me very nervous for the City, considering how things worked out last year.

Here’s one from last Thursday:

There’s a lot of budget facts floating around here right now. I’m here to connect the dots for you, the City Council, our City staff, and the residents of Oakland, and put a face on what your decisions mean for those of us who live in and work for the City of Oakland.

To repeat some facts: 54% of non-sworn staff live in the City of Oakland. 7% of Oakland Police Department officers live in the City of Oakland.

Non-sworn staff earn, on average, $75,000 in salary and benefits. OPD officers earn, on average, $150,000 in salary and benefits.

Approximately 66% of the City’s budget is paid to police and firefighters — where the budget deficit is.

City of Oakland residents have generously approved numerous property tax increases over the last few years, including myself. And you are currently considering asking residents to approve yet another $80 parcel tax to provide continued support to the City’s General Fund.

In 94605 area code, where I live, 40% of the homes in my district that are up for sale are either in foreclosure or short sale. That includes my home. 15% in salary cuts combined with 20% combined increases in mortgage, property tax, and insurance costs are forcing me out of my home.

We who both live and work in this City are paying at all ends. Cuts in income, higher housing costs, and continuous asks for more property taxes. And OPD is still not willing to pay a penny. Fair share!

Here’s one from the May 5th budget meeting:

Local 21 has a long history of making contributions to the City in times of budget crisis. In 2003, before we had even signed our recently negotiated contract, the City came to us seeking concessions and threatening layoffs because of projected budget shortfalls.

And although we had just agreed to increase employee retirement contributions by 3%, we then agreed to increase them by an addition 3% for another two years. That agreement included a pledge by the City to require all City employees to contribute the equivalent of either the 3% retirement contribution or 12 furlough days per year.

However, the City did not honor this agreement, and while civilian unions were required to make contributions or take cuts, sworn employees were not required to make any contribution at all.

Since the current economic crisis began, we have made substantial contributions to the City. In Fiscal Year 2008-09, the union agreed to the imposition of 12 shutdown days, of which all but one occurred after the last week of December, and, in effect, our members suffered a 10% loss of pay from January 09 through June 2009.

And then in our most recent contract, we agreed again to concessions of 10% by increasing our retirement contribution to the full employee rate of 8%, 12 mandatory business shutdown days per year, and one-third reduction in management leave. As a result, our cost of living increases for 2005 through 2007, when we last got one, were largely eliminated, and today we are making less than we made six years ago. In 2010, the City unilaterally and without meet and confer eliminated free parking for a number of members, effectively resulting in a further loss of pay.

All of these concessions came on top of substantial reductions in force without a corresponding elimination of programs or reduction in work. Today, our members are working harder for less pay.

Let me remind you that 56% of civilian workers live in Oakland, while only 22% of firefighters and only 7% of police. Put another way, when you look at those Oakland City employees who live in Oakland, 94% of them are civilians. We live here, we pay taxes, we vote. We are committed to this City. And we share the pain when vital community services are cut.

Time and time again, our experience has been this. Civilian employees are the first to make concessions to help the City’s budget. And we end up being the last to do so. This cannot continue.

We are all aware that nearly 75% of the City’s General Fund goes to police and fire, and much of what’s left goes to debt service and and mandated programs. There is no mathematical way to balance the City’s budget on the backs of civilian workers.

We understand that the City will be seeking further sacrifices from our members, and we understand that the wage concessions you will be seeking will be in addition to staff reductions and departmental reorganization and consolidation.

In other words, more layoffs, more cuts to essential quality of life services in Oakland, and a rollback of our compensation to an effective rate equal to where we were at in 2001, 10 years ago.

There is a limit to what our members can afford to give. Many are barely making ends meet as is. Many have partners or spouses who have lost work or income, compounding the pain. And some of our members, including some of the people who are currently at the bargaining table, are at risk of losing their homes. Basic fairness dictates that the cuts you make must be proportional to the cost of different bargaining units within the General Fund.

And given our past experience, we need to see contributions from other employee groups before we can agree to make our contribution because past promises to secure equivalent contributions have not been honored.

Let’s be clear. We are not saying that we can’t make a contribution. In fact, we could have been done with the bargaining process already, since you know we have offered for the last six months to roll over our existing contract and continue the concessions we have been giving for the past two years. That offer was not accepted.

What we are saying is that we are not willing to simply offer up concessions without seeing real contributions from those who constitute the bulk of the costs in the General Fund.

And another from last Thursday:

We have proven our willingness to sacrifice for this City, not just in the quality of our work life, but in our paychecks also. It hasn’t been easy. Many 1021 workers are the sole breadwinners in their family, some have lost their homes.

But now, during these difficult contract negotiations, our members are being asked to give too much. The proposals from the City equal over 25% of our incomes, and growing. Even so, our side is ready to roll up our sleeves, move forward, and negotiate, to mitigate our losses and to try to negotiate a contract that will save our services.

Unfortunately, as a member of the negotiations team, I have to report that your City negotiators seem intent on giving very little in terms of cooperating to improve our working conditions and to maintain the workforce in a humane way. It’s disgraceful in with as much humanity and compassion as Oakland that management has to treat its dedicated and most devoted workers with so little respect and care.

If the public saw what is going on in negotiations, they would understand. We’re being put in an impossible place. It’s like a mugging in slow motion. There is no give and take, the City is all take and take.

We aren’t asking for raises here. We’re seeking solutions to problems that negatively affect our work and services. The City workers are your partners and allies in a crisis that is not our fault. We’re not your scapegoats or your low-lying fruit. We are your workers and we work hard. Have some respect.

279 thoughts on “Union perspectives on employee concessions

  1. The Boss

    There’s no question the bulk of the problem is police and fire. But, that fact can’t mean that everyone isn’t involved in the cuts.

  2. Oakie

    How can a city with average household income under $50k support it’s city employees with average compensations of $200k for each cop, $185k for each firefighter and $100k for everyone else?

    There’s always lots of yapping about “sustainability.” Well, folks, this ain’t sustainable.

    And the system is incapable of solutions because those folks who are representing us at the negotiation table with the city unions are elected with a disproportionate influence of those same unions.

    Is it any surprise that this city pays 20% greater compensation compared to other cities in the Bay Area? Compare our compensation to other states. I saw one article that prison guards in California are paid double what they are paid in Texas. And Texas is growing and thriving. We ain’t.

    There really is only one way to break these chains. We need a charter amendment which will put absolute limits on the compensation that our representatives can offer at the negotiation table for those contracts.

    Tie their hands. Our political leaders are incapable of solving this problem.

    And I would suggest setting the upper limit on possible compensation at 20% less than the Bay Area averages for each city position.

    I would also like to see a charter amendment that will mandate that any work performed by a city employee that can be performed more cheaply by private business be outsourced.

    Tie their hands folks because what we face is ultimately going to be very very ugly. When (not if) the municipal bond markets start to realize what our real credit worthiness is, the ‘kick the can down the road’ leaders like Quan will be unable to re-up the borrowing on pensions. And that will fall under the definition of what bankruptcy means.

  3. ralph

    Here is one GJ report regarding employee cost:

    2009-2010 SANTA CLARA COUNTY


  4. MarleenLee

    Seriously, $43,000-$48,000 for annual health insurance premiums? Is that standard for police and fire officers? For non-sworn, average of $22,000 for health benefit premiums? Does anybody have any idea how completely out of whack that is compared to the private sector, and indeed, many public sector employees?

    According to this link,http://ehbs.kff.org/?page=charts&id=1&sn=6&p=1 last year the average cost for single coverage was around $5,000, and $13,700 for family coverage. A lot of employers (if not most) do not pitch in for family coverage; the employee must bear that portion themselves, or at least part of it. So how can Oakland justify paying so much more for health benefit premiums? What kind of platinum plated plan is that? That’s totally unjustifiable!

    I still completely fail to understand how it is relevant where police officers live. Oakland should hire the best people for the job no matter where they live. But even so, I question whether the 7% number quoted is even accurate. Of course, I think police should make significant concessions, but I also support them taking a position that any concessions should be conditioned on some sort of minimum staffing level. I don’t know if that is on the table or not, but I would think that would reasonable.

  5. Dax

    V, just a note of clarification.

    The above “average” city figures.

    Police, on average, cost $191,390 a year: $104,026 for salary, $43,164 for health benefits, and $44,200 for pensions. Firefighters, on average, cost a little bit less than that, $185,703 annually: $109,196 for salary, $48,150 for medical, and $28,367 for pensions. Non-sworn workers costs an average of $99,870 per year: $63,634 for salary, $22,040 for health, and $14,196 for pensions.

    It would appear that the salary figures are for “base” salary only, with no “overtime” or “other” compensation shown.

    Is that correct?

    (BTW, I really wish there was a city definition of what goes into the “other” category. )

    I might add to Marleen’s line of questioning about the $43K to $48K for medical, that this shows all the more reason for having greater detail in compensation information given out.

    Obviously I doubt any police officers or firefighters are getting a $4,000 per month medical coverage policy.
    Other items are buried in that figure.
    We should understand what they are for and what they individually cost.

    More disclosure, right in line with what the newspaper is requesting.

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    My understanding was that the figures are based on the City’s total payroll costs, including overtime.

    The details of different aspects of employee costs have been broken down in various reports over the years, many of which I have written about here. The information you seek is available, but it is based on workforce costs and does not give you the ability to pick apart individual employees for minutae. This appears to be your primary interest, but I am more interested in information that helps with balancing the City budget.

  7. John B

    Yes. The Health benefits portion of the graph likely includes “other” pay, such as various premium pays for working less desired shifts and for educational, etc. incentives. Also longevity/uniform bonuses. Not overtime.

    So the graph looks mislabeled/misleading.

    I recall reading that health benefits running between 5K and 18K for most active city employees, but I could be mistaken.

  8. V Smoothe Post author

    Based on previous documents, I would imagine that the costs listed the “medical” section include health, dental, retiree medical, worker’s comp, unemployment insurance, and life insurance. The figures are consistent with the salary percentage costs for fringe benefits outlined in the City’s five year financial forecast. from 2009.

  9. Max Allstadt

    I have absolutely no qualms with public safety employees getting top notch health and mental health benefits.

    Police and Firemen do very dangerous work that is emotionally taxing far beyond what an average member of the public or private sector deals with. Police in Oakland get in altercations often. They hear detailed witness accounts of rape and murder. They watch over the bodies of children killed by gunfire. Firemen breath carcinogenic smoke and have to be able to sleep and make peace with seeing human beings who have burned to death.

    I think they get a pass on benefits, so long as there’s no truly outlandish extravgant medical perk that we haven’t heard about.

    Their share of their pension costs however, must change, and drastically.

  10. Ravi

    “The details of different aspects of employee costs have been broken down in various reports over the years…This appears to be your primary interest, but I am more interested in information that helps with balancing the City budget.”

    I think V’s is quite the wrong approach. We need to know accurately all the components of employee costs so that we can see where we need to, and can, change spending.

    Marleen is asking just the right sort of questions about why the healthcare insurance costs are so out-of-line.

    Unfortunately the Quan and the Council have little interest in getting to the bottom of things and solving problems rationally. So the financial information we are fed by them is essentially useless.

  11. Dax


    I don’t see how the payroll costs listed under salary could possibly include overtime.

    Just looking at the fire department average, we see $109,196 for salary.

    Yet when I look at the 2009 figures for firefighters in the Trib data base, I see that if I go down to #270 of approx. 540 on the list, I still get a figure of $140,000 per year.

    So, almost certainly those salary figures we saw in these city averages do NOT include overtime.
    Otherwise, the math makes no sense.


    Regarding “The information you seek is available, but it is based on workforce costs and does not give you the ability to pick apart individual employees for minutae. This appears to be your primary interest, but I am more interested in information that helps with balancing the City budget.”

    It would seem “pick apart individual employees…for minutae” would imply someone is out to get employees.

    Most of these expenses are only seen in a real world manner the public can understand when seen at the level of a individual employee. A painter, a secretary, a mid level manager, or a fire engineer.
    Only when looking at them in such a manner can the public say Wow, look at that compared to what my company pays, or what I thought was normal.

    For example, I’d bet many folks would be surprised if they knew a AC Transit bus driver could be paid, $100 per work shift, just for their medical, dental, vision care, all of it tax free.

    The public is simply unaware of this info and is overwhelmed by large millions of dollars and percentages for wide swaths of employee categories.

    Up until a couple years ago, even allowing the public to see salary information was deemed “minutae” or labeled as picking apart employees private information.

    To beat a dead horse one more time, 98% of the Oakland public is still fully unaware that city employees were given a 35% boost in pensions 7 years ago.

    More disclosure is the path to more responsible budgeting, not less information.

  12. livegreen

    For those who think V’s info should drill down farther, I agree with you that some more detailed information on Medical insurance, etc. would be helpful. (Especially as I think Oakland often looks at Budget Line Items and which ones to cut, but NOT the detailed costs/alternate options WITHIN the budget line items.)

    But V has already drilled down quite a bit and has supplied us with more info than we would otherwise have. If somebody feels they need more info, please have at it and, as V so often does, please share with us what you find out.

  13. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    At the risk of taking this discussion off on a short tangent, I’d just like to say that I completely agree with MarleenLee (#4) that “Oakland should hire the best people for the job no matter where they live.” Then Oakland, like other cities with successful residency programs, should require them to move here within 6 months. If they aren’t willing to that, to become a property taxpaying member of our community, by definition they aren’t the best person for the job.

  14. Peggy Simmons

    V – thank you for getting this together.

    MarleenLee: In my opinion, where city employees live matters for two reasons:

    1) If a city employee lives in Oakland, a large part of their income stays in the city: sales tax, parcel tax, rent, supporting local business etc.

    2) When a city employee is trying to balance the personal impact of concessions vs loss of city services, it makes a difference if those services will be lost to their own family.

  15. MarleenLee

    OSA – most Oaklanders are not homeowners, and therefore wouldn’t be paying property taxes here anyway. Peggy’s point #2 is more persuasive than point #1. As to point #1, people are going to buy stuff where it is cheapest and/or most convenient. I don’t work in Oakland, and I tend to buy a lot of stuff where I work because it is convenient. So if people are working, but not living in Oakland, they’re still going to buy stuff there if it is convenient and reasonably priced. As for having a stake in the services, or loss of services, yes, that is a negotiating tactic, I suppose. But the other argument is, if you want people to live here, make it worth their while. Have reasonable taxes. Provide decent services. Oakland’s failure to attract its workers to live here is the problem, not employees not wanting to live here. I have absolutely no idea how you would enforce a residency requirement. People live where it is pleasant, affordable, where their kids or significant other live etc. So you would fire somebody if they originally lived in Oakland, but had to move to Fremont because their spouse got a job in San Jose? Even though they might be the most dedicated, hard working public servant you ever met? That is hardly fair to them, or the residents who rely on competent, dedicated public servants.

  16. livegreen

    BTW, I seem to recollect reading that State Law prohibits mandating that municipal workers live in the City where they work.

    If this is true, I don’t know whether State law permits or prohibits incentives to encourage them to live where they work…

  17. Max Allstadt

    Police frequently cite a fear of having their homes in the same town where they arrest people, which seems somewhat reasonable:

    How would you feel about doing your shopping and sending your kids off to school on public transit in the same town where over time you could easily rack up the resentment of multiple violent criminals?

    Firemen are clearly not in the same situation.

  18. Max Allstadt

    Sorry, I believe firefighter is the preferred nomenclature these days. A fire woman, I believe, is something else entirely…

    That is a really cool stat, though!

  19. Robert Gammon

    “it would take somewhere in the neighborhood of an 85% reduction in compensation (including benefits) to close the $58 million General Fund deficit only through concessions of non-sworn workers.”

    Any idea how much the reduction would need to be if it included sworn workers, too?

  20. Tab

    Far be it from me to question Marie Claire‘s grasp of Oakland municipal employment issues…so I’ll question Marlene’s: that article says women outnumber men during some shifts at one Oakland fire station.

  21. Dax

    Interesting article about Hayward’s budget process.


    “All told, employees are being asked for a 13 percent reduction to their total compensation. This comes after two years of a 5 percent reduction, which unions agreed to on a year-to-year basis.”

    I’m not sure if compared to 3 years ago, this amounts to 13% less total compensation or 18% less (5+13).

    It does however appear to include all forms of compensation, not just salary.
    It would be nice if Oakland would give the public some indication of what they were aiming for in terms of reduction of “total compensation”.

    Has a figure been mentioned? Either a total figure or a figure for various employee groups.

  22. zac

    I want to respond to a number of the points made here, hopefully in sequential order.

    1. I dispute the statement that fire has not made any concessions. Two year ago we increased our work week by four hours with zero raise in pay. Think of it this way: your employer tells you that you have to come in every Saturday morning from nine to one. And by the way–that’s going to be for free. Trust me, it will feel like a concession. We don’t begrudge this; we’re willing to do our part to help in these troubled times. But to hear that we haven’t made any concessions yet feels unfair.

    2. We already contribute 13% to our pension, more than any other bargaining unit in the city. Again–we’re willing to do it, but when we hear people say that we’re not contributing to our pensions, it kind of makes us wonder…

    3. V, I can’t comment on how negotiations are going with any other bargaining unit, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about the details of our own negotiations. But at least w our unit, I wouldn’t agree w your quote that things are not going well at all. We’re meeting, we’re negotiating, we’ll get something done. I’m hopeful.

    4. A big nod of agreement for the Dimond librarian who asked the city to yield on cheap and easy working conditions issues in exchange for us giving up big $$. Give and take, not take and take.

    5. Oakie: we don’t make 20% more that other Bay Area firefighters. We make less than Alameda County and Emeryville, the two other fire departments that share an umbrella union with us. We are not the top paid dept in our universe.

    6. Oakland had a residency requirement for firefighters when I was first hired. It wasn’t an Oakland requirement but something like “15 miles as the crow flies from City Hall w/o crossing a bridge” or near to that. It was of dubious legality, caused resentment, raised tricky enforcement issues, etc.

    7. Yes, the Marie Claire article was misleading. We have lots of great female firefighters, but they don’t outnumber male firefighters 2:1.

  23. Dax

    Zac, thank you for your responses here.

    Regarding — “but when we hear people say that we’re not contributing to our pensions, it kind of makes us wonder…”

    I might note those comments come from the civilian unions mentioned, not from those posting in this thread.

    A couple left over questions from the other subject thread.

    1. Is your highest years salary, upon which your pensions are calculated, able to include items other than the stated “base” salary shown for a given rank?
    Can it include extra salary given for additional training, or other education, or for any other items we may not be aware of?
    (We do understand that OT is not included in the calculation)
    Simply put, is there any way a fire engineer with a listed “base” salary of $110,000, can earn a pension above $99,000?

    2. Since you have been with the department for some time, can you tell me what the department’s credit for service years was prior to 1999? It is 3% now. What was it a dozen years ago and which year did it change? ( or has it been 3% for over 20 years? I seem to think it was raised, but perhaps I am mistaken)

  24. zac


    Final year’s compensation is final year’s compensation. It includes how much you were paid in your final year + $0. If you were receiving the Hazmat pay or the $25 bilingual pay, that would go on your final salary. But we have no training pay, no educational pay. No nothing. If a firefighter is making 100k and works 30 yrs, her pension will be 90k. Period. Incidentally, we pay for most of the training we receive on our own. I’ve used up my vacation days and paid thousands of dollars of my own money to become certified in heavy rescue, swiftwater rescue, confined space rescue, high angle rescue, etc. The department eagerly puts me to work doing these things–and I’m happy to do it–but they don’t pay for my training or give me any salary bump because of it.

    I came into the dept in 1998, and forgive me if I wasn’t focussed on retirement issues that first year. But I believe that prior to 1999 the deal was 3% at 55 whereas now it’s 3% at 50. If you came in at age 30 and worked 25 years, your pension would be 75% under either plan. It’s mostly about when you can start drawing your pension. For example: I’m 37 and I’ve been on the job for 13 years. I could retire today and my pension would be worth 39% of my salary…but I couldn’t start drawing it until I turned 50. Under 3 at 55, I’d have to wait another five years to draw the same amount. But that’s a bit of a straw man; nobody retires until they’re old enough to draw a pension.

  25. Dax

    Zac, appreciate the replies in both threads.

    I mostly agree that raising the age 50 to 55 is mostly a straw man issue for both police and fire since not many start so young they are going to leave before 55 anyway.
    And raising it to 60 brings up lots of other issues. My brother is a retired police officer and I wouldn’t have put my money on him running down bad guys at age 60.

    I had not heard about the bilingual pay.
    $25 per shift would be about $3,000 per year, or about 3% applicable for pension calculations. Interesting.

    Nice to hear about your self motivated and self funded additional training.
    Sometimes out here we get a bit cynical and just assume that every bit of everything is funded by the city, and that much of it is done mostly for extra compensation credit.
    A good reminder for me to not make any assumptions.

  26. The Boss

    So, let’s say you retire at 50 and get $90k a year after that. I assume there’s some sort of cost-of-living adjustment to that. Let’s assume it’s 3% a year.

    According to Social Security data, your life expectancy is about 29 years for a male.

    Now, how much money do you think you’d have to have in a 401(k) to pay out $90k, increasing at 3% a year, for 29 years, assuming your investments return 6% (the number Warren Buffett uses)?

    Answer: $1.7M

    How much has to be contributed each year at 6% to wind up with $1.7M? $21,500 — and that includes the initial years when presumably the employee made less money.

  27. OaklandSpaceAcademy


    I believe I’ve already pointed this out on a previous thread, but you don’t have to be a homeowner to pay property taxes. If you rent, your rent includes property taxes. Which means that smart cities, especially ones that struggle to maintain a middle class, pay slightly greater than market wages to compensate for the slightly reduced hiring pool a residency requirement entails, but then more than make up for those additional wages with tax receipts and other, less tangible but more important benefits like neighborhood stabilization. Would that Oakland be so smart.

  28. len raphael

    Assume that cops and fire will concede 10 to 15% but probably more if the city were to give an ironclad no layoff promise

    That amounts to 13.5Mill for the cops @ 140k x 645cops x 15% and something less for ofd. So maybe 20Mill cost reduction.

    No matter how many non security employees and their pay rates, if the cuts of those other employees were 15% more, and their total wage costs were say 40% of the cop costs, wouldn’t that amount to 40% of 20Mill = 8Mill cost savings from 15% cuts in pay at best?

    Unless you accept smoke and mirror annual sales of city property to RDA as a sustainable way to balance our budget, i don’t see any alternative to go back to agreeing on core services and shutting down the other departments and programs.

    Alternatively you cut the police dept down to 350 senior cops to save 40Mill, convince the voters to approve 10Mill parcel tax, and get the other 8 mill from the non security people.

    After a couple of years of smoke and mirror asset sales, and then the pension and med retirement costs hitting, I assume the 350 cop scenario is our Mayor’s Plan D.

  29. len raphael

    i can see a public security reason to require cops and firefighters to live within a certain radius of Oakland for when the big one hits, but the economic argument i don’t get at all.

    if you believe that argument, you should be pushing for paying a large fraction of all city wages and contractor payments in Acorn local currency. That nutty (i’m sorry Lionel, it’s nutty) plan at least would directly attempt to do what the living requirement would only weakly try to do.

  30. len raphael

    darn, didn’t realize the edit button was back. shoulda said with apologies to Wilson Riles)

  31. zac

    Boss–COLA is a max of 2% a year, and sometimes it’s less. That should change the compounding somewhat. And you’re right, the city does pay into our retirement as well, but the point I’m making is that 13% at a decent return gets us pretty far down the road towards helping to fund our own retirement.

  32. len raphael

    TB, curious why you expected higher non specific parcel taxes would increase value of your real property here.

    In the not so long run the main effect would be shifting real estate equity to the city away from owners.

    i could see how maybe Alameda or Piedmont’s school parcel taxes would raise your valuations, but not the way Oakland does parcel taxes.

  33. len raphael

    the city employees plea for fairness. even if they’re city residents, they have to take that position. There’s the assumption that every city department and employee is just as as important to residents as every other dept. Then a heavy dose of “how can you do something as cruel and heartly as layoffs and pay cuts to your neighbors”

    Corey Booker, Newark Mayor, discussed an aspect of that when he first proposed big layoffs in Newark and was told that city employment kept many Newark families from falling into poverty. His response was something to the effect that the City could not afford that responsibility.

    if as i expect, Quan goes for plan D, cutting/letting OPD drop to the 300′s staffing level, plus some modest other dept cuts, plus trying for the parcel tax, she has a real chance of majority support. Whether that’s majority of the voters, depends on how well the ngo’s get out the vote.

    Drummond’s piece about the dad of the gal killed at the sideshow the other night. and he had a son killed previously who finished a MY anti violence program. The dad deals with his grief by volunteering for a Measure Y patrol.

    Guess that’s more effective than building a street. shrine.

  34. OaklandSpaceAcademy


    Paying contractors and city wages in Acorn dollars IS a nutty idea. A residency requirement, however, is an excellent one! Your comparison falsely assumes the primary reason to do this is an economic one. Certainly there would be economic benefits, but the main benefits of a residency requirement are social and community. Unfortunately Okland is just not in a position to leave any benefits, economic or social, on the table.

  35. V Smoothe Post author

    Whether residency requirements are a good idea or not (I personally think they’re ridiculous), it doesn’t matter. Such requirements are not allowed under the California Constitution.

  36. The Boss

    zac -

    13% is very helpful. But, the real problem is the $100k-150k salaries.

    As they say, anything that can’t continue will stop eventually. Paying people that kind of salary in this line of work just doesn’t work. Sorry.

    The thousands of people who lined up for job openings should tell you something. You’re overcompensated. And, that should worry you.

  37. The Boss

    zac -

    By the way, you mentioned that you could quote studies on paramedicine being more effective than scoop and run.

    Can you provide me with 2 of those that you consider the most useful? I would like to look at them. All you need to do is paste URL here — no summary needed.

  38. len raphael

    NSA, by social, you mean the one that cops who live in Oakland wb more attune to the concerns of fellow residents?

    or the one about cops who grew up in poor areas of oakland have street knowledge and automatically have the trust of the residents?

    I’m sure there’s something to the latter, but there’s no way those cops would be dumb enough to raise their families in the poor parts of oakland. They see what comes of that.

    (V, i assumed residency requirements were forbidden by statute or case law, but everyone from the Mayor to Pueblo keeps bringing up the residency stats as something that has to be changed.)


  39. len raphael

    Mayor Quan to Pueblo, not exactly a broad cross section.

    Cutting/letting OPD drop to the 300′s level, would lead to to the defacto outsourcing of policing to private armed response security services in many (more) parts of town. Then opd could focus on investigation and community policing of poor parts of town.

    Never happen here?

  40. Naomi Schiff

    Best way to get higher residency is to make it a pleasant place to live. This includes retaining libraries and parks, and strengthening schools. It’s doable if we can accentuate working together, and try to avoid polarization. I appreciate the folks on this site who are trying to figure out the math without excoriating those who hold opinions different from their own, and I thank you. V, thank you for clarifying re: residency. I do think there is value in city employees who have a stake as residents, but it is not something we can require.

  41. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    Len, Neither – your options imply that the actual police work would improve, but I don’t think so. It’s the neighborhoods that would. Vast swaths of southwest Milwaukee are way better neighborhoods for all the police and firefighters that live there.

    Certainly most police and firefighters won’t be living in the most dangerous of Oakland’s neighborhoods, but they likely won’t be living in Rockridge or Montclair either. Instead they’ll make neighborhoods like mine and yours slightly better, and more dangerous (yet more affordable) neighborhoods better still.

    I doubt that the place across the street from me would be as brazen a drug-dealing house if a cop lived a few doors down. Multiply that one small improvement by hundreds of blocks, and suddenly we have a much more pleasant place to live.

    It may be unconstitutional, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. And I actually think that using the residency rates is a solid strategy for civilian employees. Shame is an underutilized device in our public discourse. And while I wouldn’t begrudge any individual employee from choosing not to live in Oakland, that so few police officers live in Oakland is shameful.

  42. Dax

    Zac, just one point about the 13% fire contribution rate.

    The normal rate for police and fire should be 9% however the fire put in an extra 4%.
    That allows the city’s employer contribution rate of 28% to be reduced to about 24%.

    In other words, in theory it takes 37% to fully fund a firefighters pension.
    Many would argue that even that 37% is on track to leave substantial underfunding in the future.

    So, even the 13% boosted rate you pay will only cover 35% of a future 90% retirement.
    And the extra 4% has only been in place a few years.

    The key point is that it is a defined benefit, not subject to the economy or markets.
    The city owes a set amount regardless of returns.

    Only a very few public employee plans are fully funded. The assumptions about how much these investments will earn is in great dispute. The CalPERS board voted this year to NOT reduce the assumed future rate of return, mostly because had they lowered it even .25% to 7.5% it would have meant cities would have been forced to make even larger contributions and nearly every city is already deep in deficit.

    Most experts have said the failure to assume lower returns is gross negligence.
    Even a staunch Democrat like Bill Lockyer said the rate needed to be lower.

    Over the past 10 years, CalPERS has averaged less than 4% on its investments.
    Over longer period, they have averages above 7%. But not many people think the future 20 to 30 years will have those kinds of returns. Most experts think something like 6% is more responsible.


  43. livegreen

    I agree with OSA & the Mayor about getting more cops to live in Oakland and the benefits that would have. Given recent prices I do think they could afford some houses in Montclair, and certainly mid to lower foothills (some neighborhoods that are perfectly safe, some that are transitional).

    Cops have the farthest to go in Residency requirements, but 55% among all city employees isn’t all that great either. I bet a fair share of the civilian employees urging us to increase our property taxes don’t live here.

    Our goal should be the 65% residency like the libraries have, or higher.

  44. len raphael

    OSA, good point, you want to get some free ot from cops and firefighters. probably another reason they don’t want to live where they work.

    the urban maybe myth was that sections of boston, brooklyn and queens favored by mafiosa, also had low street crime rates. petty that our local drug dealers don’t see that street crime is bad for their drug business.

  45. livegreen

    About schools, there are already OPD Officers who send their kids to them and are perfectly safe. Same as City Council members and other employees.

    Improving schools need not include broader gentrification. It can happen by increased neighborhood attendance in neighborhood schools.

  46. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    Len, I guess I wouldn’t call it OT. Even though, I’m in an allied field, I don’t consider my visits to the planning commission, or my help in organizing the block party, or the several block coffees I host a year, or my near nightly walks through the neighborhood to be “overtime,” but rather citizenship.

    Police and firefighters (and most municipal employees) are typically good citizens; I want them to be citizens of Oakland.

  47. zac

    Boss–Start with the OPALS group. They’ve done dozens of papers about pre-hospital care. This paper about electrical therapy shows that prehospital care saves 1 life for every 120k residents/occupants. These calls account for maybe 1% of our runs, and would mean that 4-5 lives per year are saved in Oakland just from this one intervention. And there are dozens of life-saving interventions that paramedics do beyond electrical therapy.


  48. len raphael

    Ken, thank you. Been trying to find some of those ratings.

    As i read the s&p analyst’s report, where she upgrades our General Obligation bond rating a bit, to AA-, she states that we’re going to balance our budget with expenditure cuts and one time asset sales.

    Funny that anyone would raise a credit rating for long term GO bonds based on one time asset sales.

    It demonstrates confidence that Oakland is willing and obligated legally to throw its residents over the side to protect bond holders.

    More likely, the analyst will win the Henry Bloget Award in a couple of three years.


  49. Naomi Schiff

    I know you some of you will jump all over me, but it seems obvious to me that the simplest thing to do is to cut more police positions. They are the most costly. We can get three or four part time librarians per cop. We should quit messing around. If the police aren’t willing to take any part in paying into pensions or cutting pay rates, then fine, we’ll get along with fewer of them. Let’s not be held hostage by our own police. The crime rate in the past seems to have been somewhat independent of police staffing numbers anyway. I’d also propose cutting a few costly administrators in some other departments; we are top heavy in several places. Cutting higher admin positions saves more positions total. We are topheavy in CEDA admin. We might be able to lose a position or two in the library admin. We have some big expenses in city atty office. And, release a few police. I don’t know how their agreement reads, but eliminating some desk positions sounds especially tempting, and there are a lot of them.

  50. livegreen

    Q. re. Ken’s link and the S&P ratings of AA:
    -It says Oakland has “very strong reserve levels”. Really? What are they?

    -”Management expects the fiscal 2011 general fund will be balanced”. Interesting. They appear to have more faith in our process than we do.

    -”We understand that the remaining imbalance will be offset by a limited amount of one-time revenue and additional projected underspent expenditures, pending approval by the city council in late April or early May.” Interesting. Yet again they appear to know something we don’t. I guess they don’t reevaluate right away?

    I’m surprised the Mayor’s office hasn’t used the Bond Rating in her arsenal of pro-property tax arguments and ultimatums…

  51. len raphael

    There are similarities to the OUSD situation, in that we’d be left with the most senior, highest paid cops. Just the way OUSD was looking at moving senior staff from the hills schools to the inner flats, we’d be getting older cops who haven’t patrolled in years.

    We’d still have a slim chance of pulling it off, in combo with private security in affluent areas, if City Hall and OPD were able to work really well with each other, and OPD chief had full respect and trust of OPD.

    Since we’re probably at the historic nadir of those relationships, reducing police staffing wb a death sentence for more residents of the high crime sections.

  52. MarleenLee

    Naomi, if you don’t care about people being raped, murdered, burglarized, mugged, beaten and the like, then yes, cutting police would seem to be the simplest thing. Did you hear the news about the two people just killed at the sideshow recently? Apparently the police had been called earlier, but the department was so understaffed, they had to attend to other calls. Result: two murders. Now, if libraries were shut down, would anybody die?
    And even if nobody dies as the result of crime, the frustration, anger and feelings of helplessness when you are a crime victim, and you know that the police will never be able to investigate, never recover your stuff, never catch the bad guys, because they are stretched so thin, cannot be adequately described. Let me tell you, it is quite a bit worse than not being able to check out a book. Not that I don’t value libraries. I used to live in the library as a kid. But to say, just cut police, when we are already down 200 officers from where we were, and down at least 300 from where we should be, is inviting more death and suffering.
    Who says the police aren’t willing to negotiate? One of the proposals I heard from last year was that they were willing to contribute the full amount into their pensions, in exchange for a no layoff clause. Given their already depleted numbers, how unreasonable is that? And yet, the City turned them down. So who is being unreasonable?

  53. livegreen

    I agree with everything Marleen said, and was going to mention the sideshow example. And although the rate of increase in murders changes each month, the increase this year is consistent. It is also one of the few types of crimes that’s not dependent on citizens reporting.

    However on the point of negotiations, if I recall correctly, the differences came down to how long the no layoff clause would be: the City wanted 1 year, the OPOA wanted 3 years.

  54. Navigator


    The Oakland Police Department is archaic, inefficient, and incompetent. For the longest time the Oakland Police Union decided how many cops would be on patrol and what their shifts would be. The reason that you never see a cop patroling in Oakland during high crime peek hours or holidays, is because they keep banker’s hours.

    Marleen, you have to stop assuming that the Oakland Police Department is here to work for what’s best for Oakland and its residents. The Oakland Police Department is here to work and accumulatte overtime at THEIR convenience.

    OPD just emberassed themselves and Oakland once again. This time a guy had his laptop stolen but had software built in which took pictures of the thief while identifying his location. He gave all of this info to OPD on a silver platter. They ignored it untill the media came calling.

    What exactly has the hundreds of millions spent on OPD over the last 20 years given Oakland? They don’t stop the major crimes and they ignore the small ones even when solved for them.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. How about some accountability for the high crime rate? Why don’t we hold these highly paid proffesionals accountable for the crime rate?

    Have they solved the killing of Mr. Campos in the Fruitvale? Have they solved the two killings at Sweet Jimmies two blocks from the police station?

    Also, what could they have been doing that’s more important then sending at least ONE squad car to where hundreds of people are gathered in the street and vehicles are driving recklessly? This is the same MO they used when sideshows were going full force untill they created a “sideshow unit” which was a great overtime accumulating opportunitty. They kept that cash cow going untill Chief Batts put a stop to it and got rid of the sideshows insted of containing them in order to keep the “sideshow unit” in business.

    We have top ten national crime rates, mismanaged riot control, shooting bambi, shooting family dogs, use of force lawsuits costing Oakland millions etc.

    I don’t know what the answer is but something different has to be done. The militaristic approach certainly isn’t working.

  55. mark


    I run a business in East Oakland. I try to get other businesses to join me in Oakland, but they won’t because of crime.

    If we even mention more cuts to the police, businesses (including mine) will move out, because we will not be able to attract the right people to work for us.

    Clorox left because people wouldn’t work late after dark.

    I am really tired of having to have a gun under my bed at night, but I know I can’t count on the police. It sometimes takes 45 minutes to get through to 911 on weekends.

    I don’t mean to be jumping on you, and I know you are sincere, but your comments really hurt.

  56. Navigator

    “Clorox left because people woudn’t work late after dark” and yet people pack the Paramount, Fox and Uptown restaurants well after the time any Clorox employee would be at their office? That’s not a very good excuse. If crime were really the issue San Francisco office buildings, hotels and theaters around mid Market and the Tenderloin would be empty.

  57. Mark


    People going to the paramount or dinner with a group of people is very different than a woman leaving work alone.

    Clorox leaving isn’t an excuse, it happened. Qualified applicants were not accepting positions.

    Crime costs us business.

  58. Navigator

    If Oakland is going to make cuts it shoudn’t be to employees who live in Oakland and contribute to the city’s economy. Cutting bloated police salaries would hurt Pleasanton and San Ramon, not Oakland. The 7% residency rate for OPD is an emberassment. SF, which is more expensive, has a 25% residency rate.

  59. Navigator


    The Clorox building has its own BART entrance and Clorox is still headquartered in Oakland.

  60. MarleenLee

    Navigator, where are you getting your information? I’m not saying there aren’t problems inOPD. Obviously, there are. Many, many mistakes have been made, and I’m not going to defend those. But the lack of resources is a big part of the problem. Why haven’t they solved Campos’ murder? I’d say a lack of investigators could well be a main reason.

    Have you ever met Chief Batts? Maybe he’s just a good P.R. person, but he impressed me. Isn’t he “something different?” Why paint OPD with the same brush that you were carrying 5 years ago? Your statements are just a bunch of sweeping generalizations, without evidence to show that improved staffing, when combined with effective leadership (which we didn’t have until we got Batts) wouldn’t make a big difference for the better.

    What are you talking about when you say “militaristic approach?” By definition, police departments are para-military in structure. What’s wrong with that? Why should Oakland be structured differently than any other police department in the world? Should they all be holding hands with the thugs and singing kumbaya?

  61. Naomi Schiff

    I walk home from my downtown Oakland business at all hours, by the way. I work on 12th Street near Broadway.

    It’s not that I think murder is wonderful, Marleen. It is that the occam’s razor way to solve the budget is to resolve the unwieldy public safety costs.

  62. len raphael

    Nav, about a month or so ago my neigihbor’s house was broken into during the day and two mac laptops were stolen. a few days later she went to the apple store in emeryville and saw an opd car parked nearby. she asked one of the opd cops why they were in emeryville and they explained that an oakland resident with tracking software had called them. the followed up and caught a young guy with a bunch of stolen laptops etc at his mom’s house. opd went to the apple store to get help returning the mac laptops to owners.

    so the guy who went to the media thinks he’s mr civic duty showing how lazy opd is, but i think he’s a fool.

    Nav, instead of dissing opd, you’re supposed to say this was just another example of the sf centric media distorting Oakland crime stories.

    -len raphael, temescal

  63. livegreen

    Nav, Just because you’re right some of the time doesn’t mean you’re right all of the time. Also, don’t mix correlation with causation. Under your generalizations everything’s the fault of OPD, and OPD will never become better, even if it has or when it does (depending on the area).

    It’s also the feeling of many anti-Police activists that has backed the OPOA into a corner and why they feel they have nothing to lose by not negotiating: everybody hates the Police anyway.

    However I am interested about many of the efficiency issues, and am curious whether the series of critiques Desley Brooks documents in the old Grandlake Guardian are true and whether they’ve been addressed by Chief Batts?

    Here’s the link (1st article of 4 starts at the bottom):


  64. len raphael

    correction: S&P did not raise our bond rating. They changed it’s “rating outlook” from negative to stable.

    i’ll dig into it some more and talk to the analyst. but i’m thinking that bond rating agencies are only interested in likelihood of default on principal and late payments. I don’t think even Vallejo defaulted or missed payments on bonds.


  65. Navigator


    It’s not about hating the police. It’s about making sure that Oakland gets what it pays for. You can’t have a city pay 75% of its general fund into police and fire and get these kinds of results. We have over 650 cops and you never see one patroling the streets or walking commercial districts. Oakland is a relatively small city of 56 square miles with at most half of that area considerd “high crime.” How many cops do you see patroling Rockridge, Montclair, Piedmont Ave., Lakeshore, Tresle Glen, Redwood Heights, etc.?

    If we had a modern, smart, high tech police department, we could effectivelly police Oakland and the 28 “high crime” square miles with 600 cops. Of course, we’d have to eliminate these specialized money making units and get the bulk of the department patroling and walking the streets. We could also instal cameras all over town as has been done in Chinatown and have much more area monitored by fewer people.

    OPD should be using technology and cameras. The cameras could be staffed by civilians making much less than a police officer.

    Oakland has to invest in technology in the short term in order to save 200,000 per police officer in the longterm. No city can sustain 75% of its general fund being syphoned off to the suburbs with nothing to show for it. It’s time to try something new.

  66. Naomi Schiff

    There are about 250-280 cops who patrol beats. They don’t all have the same shifts. So not that many out there at once. I support the police in their efforts, and I support public safety. But, the budget isn’t working and it would be way more productive for the police to play a constructive role. The way it looks now all they are doing is sacrificing the younger newer hires and keeping the older officers at full pay and benefits. It might make a good tough negotiating stance but this is really harmful to the city, its budget, and its crime rate too. I am fed up and I am not willing to sacrifice the rest of the city’s staff and functions because of some game of chicken.

  67. Navigator


    We have to understand that Oakland is under a microscope unlike any other large city in the Nation precisely because Oakland has no media of its own. The images come from across the Bay. Anytime Oakland srews up we make national news. We can’t afford an ineffecient and incompetent police department. Unlike when SF gets credit for shows at the Paramount, we’ll get full credit for any high profile crime. You can be sure that you won’t here “from San Francisco” when a crime happens in Oakland.

  68. ralph

    Fact: One person not having issues near the 12th St BART Station does not mean others don’t. The issues were real and should not be dismissed. That said, I think the presence of the Ambassadors has chnaged the feel of the area around the BART plaza.

    Fact: There is a world of difference between 12th St and The Paramount.

    Seems like ending employee LIFO would also save some money.

  69. Navigator


    That’s the problem in a nutshell. Out of 650 cops we have between 250 and 280 as patrol officers. So if we have three shifts per day, that’s between 80 and 90 officers available on the street at any given time minus vacation, sick leave, workers comp, etc. I’m curious. What do the other 400 cops do? Maybe if we put 400 cameras on the streets they could monitor them while they investigate cases from their desks. I know some of them are in the traffic division, and some in the robberie division, and a few in the homicide division, and the gang unit. etc.

  70. MarleenLee

    Nav – where on earth are you getting your facts? Did you miss my question about the 7% residency rate? Where is that from.

    You next claim Oakland is a “small city” and has “650″ officers. Last I heard, we were under 650. Long Beach is 50 square miles and has 888 officers. Way more officers per square mile. And, less crime.

    Cops walking around Montclair and Trestle Glen? Are you kidding? There aren’t enough of them to keep the murder rate in the worst parts of Oakland out of the news on a regular basis. That is exactly my point. We are tremendously understaffed as it is. Cameras serve a purpose, but they can’t substitute for a person who can run and shoot a gun.

    Which units of the police department “make money?” Explain how that works.

    Have you emailed your suggestions to Chief Batts? What was the response?

    I have actually emailed the police department several times with several specific suggestions on how to improve. I can’t guarantee they have taken my suggestions, but they have always acknowledged my emails. If you think things can be better, what are you personally doing to improve things? Besides hurling insults?

  71. len raphael

    Naomi, laying off cops would be the simplest way to balance the budget, but apart from the serious risks to life, limb, and property, it doesn’t solve the unaffordable wage structure of those depts.

    we haven’t even tried offering iron clad no layoffs, in return for say a 20% cut in compensation for cops and fire, 10% to misc employees, in combo with cuts and layoffs to certain non essential depts and programs.

    not saying a senior cop or firefighter would vote to accept that, but if backed that kind of offer with a charter amendment to end binding arbitration, and an amendment to allow privatizing of other depts, I don’t see how the employees would have much choice to either accept or exit.

    Three or four hundred cop level, when opd gets 100,000 911 calls a year? Forgetabout gps enabled laptop thefts, opd will start triaging assaults.

  72. Mry

    @Naomi, I’ll pass on your suggestion of laying off police and keeping librarians. Also, I’m curious where you get your information that they are unwilling to negotiate?
    @Navigator, I just have to laugh when I read your angry postings against OPD. You have no idea what you are talking about and it shows. Send one patrol car to disperse a crowd of 800 plus people???? Really, that’s the best you can come up with? That’s just a perfect example of not having enough officers. Contrary to what you say, my experience with them has not been guys who keep bankers hours trying to work overtime and don’t care about the citizens, not even close.
    I’m sorry it’s so upsetting to you that they did not deal with the stolen laptop, but frankly I care more about the things they have done in the last few weeks. Namely, stopping a gun deal that was about to take place, and assisting in finding a fugitive that committed a murder.

  73. Naomi Schiff

    I agree that the laptop is not a major crime focus and shouldn’t be, MRY. I’m not clear on whether the police union members are willing to negotiate, but I sure haven’t heard anything about any movement so far. If they are, that would be great news. I’m not eager to cut back on police staff, but I don’t think policing is the be-all and end-all of city functions, and I don’t think we need to be treating them differently than the other workers, all of whom have taken various cutbacks and many of whom are willing to accept more.

  74. Livegreen

    Let’s see: 280 in Patrol (assuming your # is correct) + roughly 70 Investigators (about half in Internal Affairs, half for all crimes against the citizens of Oakland) + about 56 PSOs = about 406 Officers. Not their commanders BTW.

    That leaves a little over 200 officers to do the following: Command the Dept., manages each of the 3 large areas above, Traffic, Dispatch & Communication, Personnel & Fiscal Svcs, Inspector General, Animal Services, Records, Training, Youth & Family Services, Neighborhood Services, CRTs, Buildings Operations, ABAT, Abandoned Auto, Crime Analysis, Intelligence, Helicopter Unit, Canine Unit, OPD Medical, Patrol Desk, etc.

    Some services having two or three shifts around the clock, others are on-call using overtime. I don’t know how 200 people are going to do all that, even if there’s only one shift. I haven’t even gotten into costs to maintaining all that equipment. Sure looks to me like we’re underserved…

    In area Oakland is larger than SF, so more distance and logistics to cover.

    As for cameras, they can assist but are limited effectivenss, what with hoodies and all. As for the costs and civil liberties issues, I can c it now: 300 anti-police actvists lining up at City Council on one side, Navigator on the other. Even if you commit to that, what are the chances the City Council is going to fight that battle?

    Naomi, I agree with you that the cops have to pitch in on both salaries and pensions. But they can’t be the only ones just because their department, operations and compensation all cost more. There are logical reasons for that and, try as you might to ignore them, they’re not going away.

    When it was the OPOA’s turn for concessions they said they wouldn’t unless other unions did too. At the time the other Unions were under contract so didn’t have to give anything new, and they didn’t. So the City balanced the budget on the backs of OPD.

    Well now it’s everybody else’s turn, I bet the OPOA is more than willing to return the love.

    Every cycle this repeats and the Unions try to use the other unions or the City as the bad guys to avoid their own concessions. This is deliberate, but it’s time for them to swallow their own medicine. When the OPD and OFD contracts come up again the process will repeat itself, until the economy gets better when the Unions will use it as a way to do the opposite.
    (There must b some negotiating science to all of this).

    This is bad management. All the contracts should be at the same time, and everybody should share equally in the cuts. Much much easier, and fair I might add.

  75. Mry

    @Naomi, who says we are treating them differently? I think the city has done a fabulous job of throwing police under the bus, and OPD is guilty of having the most horrible PR or lack thereof. Police have given back in the last go around, some of them as much as 18%. nobody pats them on the back for that. Let’s face it, if there is a more anti police city than Oakland, I sure do not know about it. I do not mean to include the majority of people that post here, most seem supportive.
    But our mayor and most of the city council, it’s appalling. Unfortunately, I truly believe that crime will not change with their attitudes.

  76. Naomi Schiff

    Is it not true that the police do not pay into their pensions, but other city workers do? I have been trying to pay attention. I don’t think it is anti-police to perceive that there are competing priorities that are also important. Public safety is a preponderance of the general fund budget. We need to band together to find a solution which presents livable wages to the police but quite reasonably requires them (and all the other city employees too) to contribute substantially to their pensions. And they need to start now.

  77. Dax

    Mry, “Police have given back in the last go around, some of them as much as 18%. nobody pats them on the back for that.”

    Would you please give us the math on that one…

    Something tells me they’re making as much as ever despite having “given back” as much as 18%.

  78. Mry

    @Naomi, yes, it is true. It is also my understanding that OFD pays so much into theirs because the city gave them a huge wage increase at the time, so only new hires are affected.
    Competing priorities are not what I refer to when I say that the city is anti police, it’s an attitude that is pervasive throughout the city and I have never seen anything like it. I have only lived her for less than 5 years, but I have to say that it causes me to reconsider.

  79. Hayden

    Our house over in South Prescott/the Lower Bottoms was broken into maybe a year ago. The quite pleasant cops who came over that evening (I was surprised that anyone came) were the same ones who had been shot at that morning when they busted a car with drugs and guns in it–but they were still on their shift. When I go to local NCPC meetings, the officer who comes seems engaged and he’s been responsive when I contact him.

    I think more cops and firefighters should be local. San Francisco has a lot of folks who are out-of-area, and city staff there worry about that. I don’t know how its firefighters who live in Lake Tahoe or Sacramento are going to help SF much after the next big earthquake.

  80. Livegreen

    Naomi, I agree with you they should have. They didn’t and they sacrificed 80 fellow Officers. Now I think that’s stupid. But they already paid the price.

    Time for the other Unions to make the same decision.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two dumb decisions don’t make a smart one.

    Don’t worry the OPOA will get their come-uppance when their contract is up, if not sooner through layoffs. (I’m still surprised the City renewed a 3 year contract in this economy).

    As V has pointed out the situation is drastic, so the City really has no choice but to be tough: there’s no money.

  81. zac

    Mry, All Fire members are affected equally. Young and old, we all pay 13% of our salary towards PERS. And if you look at the chart at the top of this post you’ll see why the story of “huge wage increase” doesn’t quite hold water. Our base wage is about 5k more than the cops…but we also work 16 hours/week more than they do. So base wages are comparable, but we’re still paying that 13%. If we’d gotten a huge wage increase to compensate for our increased PERS contribution, then we should be making substantially more than OPD, which we do not. Check the graph–OPD total compensation is higher than ours by about 6k, so the “huge wage increase” doesn’t hold water if we a) make less than cops overall and b) pay more into our PERS.
    But remember also, we don’t negotiate for the cops and we don’t make our decisions based on their actions. We pay 13% because it’s the right thing to do.

  82. V Smoothe Post author

    Livegreen, have you somehow missed the fact that there have been far more layoffs of civilian employees than of police, even as civilian employees have made significant concessions? Did you miss the part of the post where I explained that without contributions from police and fire, every other employee would have to take an 85% compensation cut to balance the budget? I don’t really understand what you think the solution is here.

    To say that budget was balanced, last year, or ever, “on the backs of OPD” suggests that you simply have not been paying attention for the last three years. It is a statement completely out of touch with reality.

  83. Mry

    @Dax, I will try to find the figures of how it was explained to me, it was a while ago but I will find it. I do remember some of the things they gave back were incentive pays for education, being bilingual etc.
    @Zac, forgive me if I was wrong, but that is how I understood it. I’m happy to hear that OFD is concerned with doing the “right” thing, let’s see what they do next…….

  84. Naomi Schiff

    I run a small business. If I’m in need of budget cuts, I need to look at my biggest expenses. I can review paper clips, or cut back on ball point pens, or I can look at my biggest costs, which are payroll, health insurance, and rent, in that order. It would be nuts for me to decide that I’d save my budget by cutting office supplies, at most a couple of hundred bucks a month. That’s the equivalent of cutting Oakland’s libraries and parks and ignoring the biggest items. I’d have to cut back work hours and/or workforce, and Oakland will too, unless it can save enough money through labor negotiations with the public safety unions. (Note that pensions are not in my top three. That’s because my little company contributes about 2-3% rather than 80-100% toward retirements. Granted, employees also get social security. So we are contributing another 6.2% on top of pay. But still, the numbers are pretty much the reciprocal of the city’s contracts.) If we don’t focus on cutting public safety expense, retirement and pension funding, we are not going to make it. These two things are eating up many city budgets around the country. It’s not about libraries and parks.

  85. len raphael

    Naomi, make the analogy closer to the city’s situation by assuming you didn’t lose customers.

    They are insisting on the same or higher level of service/product as they got from you previously but because of competition, their tough situation etc, they will pay you less than they did previously.

    First you tell your vendors and subcontactors (eg. non-profit service providers) that they have to lower their prices to you or you’ll find someone cheaper.

    next you flatten your organization by laying off managers while streamlining/improving communication etc.

    then you figure out which lines of business to exit and which you have to stay in.

    you lay off the people in the areas you decide you cannot afford to service without hurting the crucial products/services to you most important customers.

    then you figure out what kind of wage/benefit concessions you need to get from the remaining employees. But you should already know from asking around what cuts if any most employees will take before you ask them.

    If those cuts won’t be sufficient, then you either cut your own salary/draw, shut down, or go back to your customers and ask them to pay you more.

    For sure 15% cuts to small pieces of the cost pie is just paperclip money. But 100% cuts to many small pieces is big money.

    I think Russo got it right (finally) in his exit interview when he said within a couple of years Oakland won’t be able to pay its bills unless it quickly decides on core services and amputates the rest.

    Fairness and which employee group made the biggest concessions is not the point when we can barely afford to provide residents are decent basic, no frills services.

    btw, don’t forget that the biggest piece of the 400Mill unfunded medical retirement obligation is for non public security employees.


  86. Ravi

    Naomi: “I run a small business.”

    Government isn’t a business. It has legal and ethical obligations to protect public safety.

    On the other hand, business experience teaches people how to get certain things done by managing resources (money) well. Management skill is perhaps the main thing lacking among electeds in City Hall.

    Mry: “I say that the city is anti police, it’s an attitude that is pervasive throughout the city and I have never seen anything like it.”

    Quite right and important. The Mayor and CC act as if OPD were an alien force. OPD is part of Oakland gov’t and thus OPD performance, goals, etc., are the fundamental responsibility of said Mayor and CC, who prefer to “cop out” on managing “the force.”

    Generally when people talk about reducing costs by laying civil servants off, there are often larger costs incurred in the long run with such layoffs. For example, when a cop is laid off, Oakland may save his salary. When a cop is hired in the future as a replacement, there is not only a salary to replace, but often (usually I would guess) an additional training (police academy) cost which, in the first few years exceeds salary costs. Thus cost “savings” through layoffs can be quite the opposite long term.

  87. MarleenLee

    A lot of facts can get lost in rhetoric that focuses on words like “concessions,” “layoffs” and the like. Despite the fact that “only” 80 police officers were laid off last year, that does not mean that the number of positions lost isn’t much greater. The number of positions lost is actually over 200. So multiply that number times $190,000 (what the City claims it costs on average for a newer officer, I believe) and that gets you $38,000,000 annually that the City is saving. Tell me which other department has suffered a permanent cut that severe? 200 out of 800 police positions are gone – that is a 25% reduction in staff. Which other department has lost 25% of their staff in less than 2 years? Which other department provides services that can make the difference between life and death?

  88. Ravi

    Right on MarleenLee. OPD attrition rate these days is as high as 11 sworn employees per month. That’s how you get to nearly 200 positions gone in the past year or so–attrition plus layoffs.

  89. Naomi Schiff

    Parks has been cut more if I’m not mistaken, though over a somewhat longer period.

    Ravi: There are costs in shutting down any operation, not just the police, by the way.

  90. Ravi

    Naomi: “There are costs in shutting down any operation, not just the police, by the way.”

    No doubt. My point is that the police layoff costs are particularly high long-term. And I didn’t mention the additional long-term costs of undiminished crime or increased crime.

    Last, the Council, in its usual myopia, does not consider very much, if anything, in terms of long-term costs. They like to “solve” the crises of the moment, which is their SOP and which is why Oakland never really moves ahead.

  91. Navigator

    Naomi is absolutely right. You have to look at your biggest expenditures. Oakland is going to have to get by with a leaner police department. It’s time to work smarter and figure out ways to combat crime with new technologies.

    The cops decided they were going to sacrifice 80 positions so that the senior officers could keep their inflated salaries and benefits.

    The bottom line is that Oakland cops are the most expensive cops in the nation and their performance in reducing crime in Oakland has been abysmal. I’m tired of seeing Oakland in those lousy “most dangerous lists.” It stunts Oakland’s growth and Oakland’s economy.

    In response to “sending one cop to where 800 people are gathered” what police department in the nation would be oblivious to something like that happening in their city besides OPD? It was the same thing when the sideshows were going full force, It seemed like OPD didn’t have a clue or didn’t care that these sideshows were going on. They were occuring in low income areas of town and OPD was happy to just contain them for a price. Also, officers make extra pay when working for specialized units like the “sideshow” unit, the gang unit, etc.

  92. Mry

    I’ll repeat, they were not OBLIVIOUS, they simply did not have the bodies. So since you are so good at criticizing, what would you have done? Let me guess, you would have been that lone patrol car, right? Somehow I highly doubt it.

  93. Born in Oakland

    Seems to me that John Russo got it right in his exit interview (posted on this site). We can only afford core services: safety, roads, sewers. I am not certain our opinions or machinations matter….the well is dry.

  94. Naomi Schiff

    Marleen, I know that there are many fewer FTEs than there were 10 years ago, so I looked it up:
    1999 342 FTE
    00-01 352 FTE
    /01-02 411 FTE
    /02-03 413 FTE
    /03-04 362 FTE
    /04-05 220 FTE
    /05-06 210 FTE
    /06-07 211 FTE
    /07-08 241 FTE
    /08-09 286 FTE
    It’s a little hard to judge because some functions have moved in and out of parks and rec (like IT positions and road median maintenance) and I have not kept up with it, but there are many fewer employees in some categories, such as gardeners, to the extent that maintenance and upkeep is quite problematic. Beyond park upkeep, this dept. runs a lot of after school playground activities that give kids something to do and someplace to go, a critically important function.

  95. Naomi Schiff

    Like the libraries, the parks and rec people use quite a number of not-highly-expensive part time workers. These two departments manage to make use of a sizable number of volunteers, as well.

  96. Marleen

    Naomi, those numbers don’t show anything, except that that department employs 60 FTE more now than it did in the boom times of 2004.

  97. The Boss

    Naomi -

    Would it change your opinion at all if you saw data showing that after school programs have little to no effect on children’s success? Or is your belief more of a religious-type thing like the communism thing?

    I have data if you’re interested. I assume you’re not. But, let me know…


  98. len raphael

    Costs to stopping physical park maintenance and then restarting in say 3 years would be hugely expensive. Replanting, relandscaping.

    Since our city mothers and fathers are AWOL, lets see if we can reach consensus on a prioritized short list of core services.

    if the people on this site can’t agree, there’s no hope.

    police, fire, roads, sewers, parks, libraries, planning dept. assume CEDA cuts down to self sustaining level but gotta monitor those blight fine tendencies.

  99. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    Boss, I don’t have much of an opinion (except that it is stupid to think that a small business owner would believe in communism), so definitely post that data. Either here or on your blog, you haven’t posted for too long…

  100. Naomi Schiff

    Yes, well Boss I don’t know about you, but I might not appreciate what happens when the entire youth population is hanging out on the corners, with nowhere to do homework, no place to get some exercise, socialize, or just plain hang out in a safe and wholesome way. My own children made pretty constant use of libraries and parks, and it certainly was a key part of helping them to become the solid citizens that they now are. I will thank you to be civil and refrain from calling me a commie. This is not 1953.

  101. The Boss

    OSA/Naomi –

    I think I understand now. It’s not the kids that the programs help. It’s that it reduces the blight to neighborhoods. I actually think that’s a good point. Sort of like an early version of jail.

  102. livegreen

    V, The layoffs among civilians were in great portion unfilled positions, not layoffs. Also, I didn’t say anything about total one vs. the other. I was implying OPD vs. any other department.

    As I’ve stated both then and now, OPD needs to contribute. But for crime reasons it can’t be just OPD as Naomi is arguing. And for budget reasons as you’ve stated, it can’t be just the non-sworn staff.

    But practically speaking because of contracts, OPD isn’t on the firing line like they were before. If other departments don’t give the level of concessions the city is asking for (whatever that is), they should be reduced by 25%, like OPD.

    Then the additional layoffs needed should be proportional, minus any non-core programs. Some of those are going to have to be either shut down, reduced further, or look for non-profit funding elsewhere (esp. those that already have non-profit status and other sources of funding).

    It’s not what I like or don’t (I love Chabot, Fairyland, and know the senior centers are beneficial). Unlike the Boss I believe in many of the benefits you and Naomi believe in. But if you can’t pay for them, you can’t pay for them, and then they’ll get shut down anyway.

  103. Naomi Schiff

    A whole community has things for people to do, safe places to go, natural beauty, sources of information and education, productive jobs, local businesses, and relationships between citizens and their city government which are not based only on crime and emergencies. A community, in order to function, requires relationships between the people in it. We must not neglect those who need help, nor the young, nor the elderly. I post here under my own name and I am proud to be a citizen of Oakland. Many Oaklanders contribute in our various ways. I encourage everyone to adopt a positive attitude and lend a hand. You might enjoy it.

  104. OaklandSpaceAcademy


    My gosh, ‘A community…requires relationships between the people in it,’ that sounds almost conservative. How in the heck are some folks around here going to stereotype and simplify your thinking with phrases like that?

  105. len raphael

    Naomi, it’s not like the residents have to decide between becoming Sparta or Athens.

    It’s more the situation of my 70 year old lemon tree, whose main root I damaged based on dumb expert advice. Have to prune back about 1/3 and remove all lemons so that it puts all of it’s energy into healthy new growth. (so yes, there’s a risk when pruning of killing the tree)

    NYC has faced these crisis twice in the last 40 years and came out fine. Admittedly, they lucked out from the same booming world economic changes that brought us the real estate boom and bust.

    Our crucial error as Russo alluded to in his exit interview, is that that we assumed that the dot com and real estate booms would last forever.


  106. Naomi Schiff

    Hey Len! My ancient lemon tree too has had an exciting couple of years. We had to amputate one of three major branches when we rebuilt the back porch, and I was afraid it was a goner. Pruned it and made pretty good lemon-chili pickles from the lemons, fertilized, and now it is more vigorous than ever. I take your point, but I’ll not support pruning the libraries and parks off, despite the horticultural analogy! I want all the important city services to survive and thrive. We should have a lemonade party!

  107. Rude_Hawk

    Only personable psychopaths would reduce the police force of a city with a serious crime problem.

  108. Ken

    beating a dead horse here… john russo said it best; top priorities are police, fire, roads, sewers.

    i’d follow that with city revenue collectors/fiscal managers (CFO, bookkeepers) who work the budget.

    ONE library and public pool OR park per major geographic region of oakland. (less than 5 of each)

    city politicians should be capped at four staff each.

    everything else can go dormant until budget things are sorted out.

    after oakland implodes within a couple-few years, John Russo could come back and run for mayor. probably Perata and others would run too. who else would be interested?

    It sounds like Nancy Nadel is retiring. about time – follow Oprah’s lead everyone! how about larry reid, desley brookes, jean quan, pat K and IDLF? only Kaplan and Schaff are “newer”

  109. livegreen

    Ken, Chief Batts should also consider running.

    Re. Nancy and Oprah’s lead, Ignacio might also step down at the end of his term…

  110. Naomi Schiff

    John R. certainly expended plenty of money building the city atty’s office and promoting himself. I’d not see him as a great example of fiscal wisdom. Did he really need a full time pr person? I guess yes, if he was trying to get a new job, and if so many of you don’t take what he says with a grain of salt.

  111. len raphael

    Naomi, Russo isn’t the only elected official to directly state that within the next couple of years we will face Vallejo like cash flow problems. Pat K said the same thing back in January at Lakeshore church budget community meeting.

    In one of the taped campaign forums, O&A, Quan states that in about 4 years we will face a similar situation unless (?) the cops put in their 9%. (i have to check my notes or the video on this. I did post about it at the time. It was wierd because it was the first and only time she had conceeded the depth of our problems but her solution was a bandaid.)

    -len raphael, temescal

  112. Ravi

    Naomi re Russo: “I’d not see him as a great example of fiscal wisdom.”

    He wasn’t in charge of the city of Oakland’s finances. He was the City Attorney, remember? As City Attorney his job was to provide services, not to cut back on his spending.

    Russo was quite clear about meeting his service-to-the-city obligations (this is what is known as ethical behavior). Such obligations require the use of real resources, like money.

    As City Attorney he did a good job of warning the Council and Mayor about long term financial consequences of poor policies. Just recently he warned that taking the risk of allowing pot farms in Oakland in the face of ongoing Federal antipot policy would be an enormous financial threat to the City. Remember?

    He is, and has been, way ahead of the Council and Mayor regarding long-term financial responsibility and ethical behavior.

  113. Ken


    Let’s check out John Russo’s actual fiscal record.

    He voted against floating pension obligation bonds as city councilman in 1997 – aka voted AGAINST the city taking on an umpteenth “second mortgage” or credit card debt, vs paying into its future pension obligations as responsible, long-term goal oriented adults would have.

    A PR/media/communications person costs what, 50k a year at most? Meanwhile, POBs are costing Oakland taxpayers $250 million dollars extra!

    $250,000,000 vs

    Wow, great priorities you have.

    Who voted for this debt load?

    Looking at a random ordinance from 1997, we see: Brunner, Chang, De La Fuente, Miley, Nadel, Reid, Russo, Spees, Harris.

    I haven’t found the actual vote on this issue, but there’s who was on board back then. Most people voted for it for it to pass. Guess who?

    Russo also took on your favorite Wall Street banks and ibanks in the last several years – Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, etc… for conspiring to charge City of Oakland higher rates for borrowing money via “bonds”. More stellar work. And yes, if you have done good work, it should be publicized.

    Doesn’t our dear comrade quan have a communications staff? Aren’t all politicians ultimately supposed to be communicators, or have talkers to talk for them on their behalf, or at least be a conduit between representative and citizens? I guess you are against OPD having defined some of its staff as media/PR communicators too? BART? Target? Walmart? Bank of America? Where do you bank anyway Naomi?

    Excerpt from Russo iview:

    “Q: What accomplishments are you proud of during the six years spent as councilmember?

    A: I’m proud that I voted against floating more debt to play the stock market in 1997. Instead of paying our pensions, we floated pension bonds, saying basically we could make more money in the stock market than we were going to pay in interest and that would enable us to hold down our pension debt. Instead, according to the city auditor, we ended up another quarter billion dollars in the hole. And I saw that, and I voted the right way on it, and lost that vote by quorum unfortunately.”

    Please share with us examples of fiscal conservatism from your favored Oakland City leaders. I’m dying to know.

  114. Ravi

    “Please share with us examples of fiscal conservatism from your favored Oakland City leaders. I’m dying to know.”

    Me too.

    On a related topic, running city government well is all about setting priorities. The reason for setting priorities is so that you can spend whatever limited funds you have for what is most important. Public safety is usually considered the number one priority for local government. It’s probably in the Oakland City Charter.

    I’d like to know from Naomi or anyone else who might have the answer how exactly public safety is treated as the first priority in Oakland. Certainly we throw money at it. But we don’t know very accurately at all how that money is being spent, aside from salaries.

    Or, as the Quanster puts it: “Oakland has very many priorities.”

  115. MarleenLee

    One of my favorite quotes from the Russo interview: “And a core service right now in Oakland is defined by any group that can bring 50 angry people to an Oakland City Council meeting. That’s not how you exercise leadership.”

  116. Navigator

    Exactly, people feel better if we have 800 cops instead of 650 but no one holds the cops responsible for bringing crime down. They take comfort in the high number of cops at $200,000 a pop, but do they really know how many are out there actually patroling the streets.

    What Oakland really needs is to privatize public security at a much lower rate. How many private security guards can Oakland hire for $200,000? It’s not like the present very expensive police force has shown that it can reduce violent crime or deal with quality of life crimes like rampant graffiti, vandalism, litter, abandoned vehicles, and illegal dumping.

    I challenge anyone to walk around parts of downtown Oakland and marvel at the incredible amount of vandalism which is done mere blocks from police headquarters. Take a walk down 7th Street from the police station to Chinatown and to Laney College. Take a walk on the former auto row area on Broadway. Take a look at the surface parking lots downtown and their graffiti filled walls. The graffiti monsters vandalize Oakland with impunity while our $200,000 cops go home to graffiti free and well manicured Pleasanton, San Ramon and Danvile.

    This is what the millions upon millions thrown at a police department with $200,000 dollar cops has gotten Oakland. This strategy has gotten Oakland top ten crime rates, blighted streets, unchecked vandalism, litter, and a horrible image.

    Oakland should save the money by hiring private security at a fraction of the cost and use the savings to beautify Oakland and clean the destruction created by the graffiti punks and vandals that OPD can’t, or wont, stop. Create a pleasant, clean and beautiful city with wonderful parks, libraries, plazas, walking and biking trails, well maintained streets, improved lighting, etc. Let’s make Oakland look like the hometowns of where Oakland’s $200,000 cops go home at night.

    Throwing money at the police just to increasae the number of officers only to have a fraction of those officers actually patroling the streets, is a waste of money. The Oakland Police Department has played a cruel hoax on the good citizens of Oakland for the last 30 years. Oakland looks like crap and they don’t give a damn because only 7% of them live in the city. They’ve taken the money and ran while failing miserably at their jobs.

  117. FloodedByCEDA

    Before we hire private security like Navigator suggests, We need to vote in changes to the city charter. The charter prohibits outsourcing jobs that can be done by city workers.

  118. Ravi

    “What Oakland really needs is to privatize public security at a much lower rate.”

    Right on, genius. This is the kind of thinking that got Blackwater, et al, involved in Iraq and elsewhere.

    You are right at home out there in Danville with the rest of the Teaparty.

  119. Max Allstadt


    The vote on doing the idiotic PFRS bond in ’97 was…

    Yes: Brunner, Chang, De La Fuente, Miley, Reid.

    No: Nadel, Russo, Spees, Harris.

    De La Fuente is the only one of the original “yes” votes who had seen what a terrible decision he made in ’97. He is now vocally against it.

    Nadel is the only “no” vote from ’97 who’s now openly supporting the current proposal for re-bonding out bad bond debt. She made the right call in ’97, and today, having 250 million reasons to say she was right in the first place, appears to be ready to do the wrong thing.

    I hope that is out of date information. It would be lovely if Reid and Brunner would turn 180, you know, based on undeniable evidence. Even better if Nadel turned her misguided 180 into a 360.

    Also… what did the 5 1997 yes voters have in common? They were the Peratistas.

  120. Dax

    San Jose just agreed with police to cut their “total compensation” by 10%.
    Still to be decided is what will happen to pensions. The SJ mayor intends to put a proposal on the ballot to address the pension issues.

    BTW, currently San Jose police officers contribute 10.48 per cent of their pay.
    In addition to that, they currently also pay an additional 7.01% into a retiree medical/dental fund.
    Thus, even before any pension changes that may be made, they now pay 17.47% of payroll as their employee contribution.

    The city also pays a hugely larger share amounting to 57% (about 22% of that is for prior unfunded conditions)


    Do Oakland police officers contribute to their retirement medical/dental?

    Firemen in SJ pay about 15.8% of their pay to cover their employee contribution for pension and retiree medical/dental.

  121. len raphael

    Those long lines of applicants for OFD positions would be a lot shorter if images were on display of how the “low grade” SF residential fire killed those firefighters in seconds.

  122. J

    Oakland has had a significant budget crisis for a long time now. Too little, too late. That has been the approach of City Council and the past Mayor. Mayor Quan now proposes too little and it will come too late. We are now at the crossroads where a comprehensive approach is required or this City will end up like Vallejo.

    Rank and file are going to have to give up more or face serious staff cuts. Police are going to have to give back more or face losses via attrition. Libraries and parks will have to close. Kids First and Measure Y need to be put back on the ballot and eliminated. Salary and pension reform will have to take place. Outsourcing needs to occur. Priority based budgeting needs to be implemented.

    We are way beyond the point of one solution. Quan’s brand of politics which is to scare residents that the libraries are gonna close and senior centers are gonna close if you don’t pass a parcel tax is not leadership. It’s simple minded and is a political gamble. Her approach is to sacrifice police for libraries and social programs that have few if any metrics to measure their relative coste effectiveness and success in reducing crime.

    Some on this blog openly advocate for further cuts to the number of police so that we can save libraries and parks. I think this is a shortsighted and naive approach. We do need to make Police pay their fair share of pension contributions, but the further loss of police either through direct cuts or attrition, has a direct and indirect affect on the City’s tax base.

    The City of Oakland is one of the most dangerous and crime ridden cities in the United States and the western world. That is both fact and perception. Because of this, fewer people want to purchase homes in Oakland, locate businesses in Oakland, recreate in Oakland, dine in Oakland and otherwise spend money in Oakland.
    There are other safer alternatives, both real and perceived, than Oakland. The reality and perception of crime in Oakland results in the significant loss of or failure to capture real and potential tax revenues–sales taxes, hotel taxes, property taxes, transfer taxes, business taxes, etc.

    The only way to address both the reality and perception of crime is to retain and increase the number of police that are available to patrol the streets, serve as a visible deterrent to crime, make people feel safe because they actually see police on the beat, and because police respond faster to crimes in progress and arrest more criminals.

    Social programs and libraries may make a difference in the long run, though I have not seen any local studies that actually validate this for Oakland, but certainly not in the short term. As a matter of priority, more police, rather than keeping libraries and parks open, will have a more direct and tangible affect on maintaining and growing the tax base in Oakland by addressing the reality and perception of crime.

    The current budget discussion and debate is really about political interest groups trying to protect their little slice of the pie without any global or comprehensive strategy on maintaining and growing the tax base which is required to address our revenue shortfalls and provide core services.

    Jean Quan is a scared little rabbit running to and fro with no real escape plan and no real idea on how to programmatically address the significant decline in tax revenues other than to further tax the middle class.

  123. Junior

    Security guards do not have the same training as police officers, they are not and will never be held to the same standard. They cannot patrol, investigate, or take calls. They can sit there on the street corner on their asses all day though, and if a robbery occurs in front of them and the suspect takes off in a car? Will they give chase in a police car?

    imagine the liability the city itself will face by hiring security guards to act in the capacity of police officers.

    cue John Burris ;)

  124. len raphael

    Before we place Russo on a pedestal, we might footnote a few of his bigger bloopers. I recall something financial a few years back, that blew over. Some of the convenience store owners are still pissed that his cleanup campaign made them responsible for doing OPD’s work, and that he choose to prosecute the weakest shop owners.

    Personally, I still think he caved too easily on the NSA, but he has a valid rebuttal to that.

    But for pedestal purposes, some of his now elderly former council constituents still sing his praises as the best council member they ever had.

    -raphael, temescal

  125. Ravi

    “But for pedestal purposes, some of his now elderly former council constituents still sing his praises as the best council member they ever had.”

    No politician, or anyone else for that matter, is going to avoid serious mistakes or bad decisions.

    The salient point about Russo is that he is capable of making decisions about priorities, is capable of reflecting about complex consequences of policies and has leadership skills and the courage to use them, however risky this may be.

    Thus Russo stands way out, and far above most Oakland electeds, past and present. Courtney Ruby, City Auditor, also has strong principles and a commitment to doing the right thing. We might have one or two Council members who have some management or leadership capacity. But two or three competent people are far fewer than we need here.

  126. Dax

    I mentioned above that prior to the recent agreement, San Jose police payed 7% of their salary into a retirement medical/dental plan. To cover their future medical/dental needs.
    San Jose fire pay 4.8% for the same
    San Jose miscellaneous pay 8.6% for the same.

    OK, I don’t know exactly what kind of coverage those contributions cover but it makes me wonder what Oakland employees pay, and what they get.

    Miscellaneous in Oakland get $425 per month after retirement.
    Do they pay anything in contributions?

    How about fire and police.
    Do they get anything and if so, do they pay anything in contributions.
    (seems that someone here said that police have no coverage from time of retirement onward. For them, or for their spouse?)

    Any knowledge of Oakland’s situation for each of the three main employee groups?

    Also, from Dan Walters, a interesting comparison of Stockton’s problems as they are similar to Oakland’s.


  127. Ken

    Sad we’re going after unionized pensions. Ah well. Goodbye industrial civilization’s pensions. Was nice knowing you. Cars, too.


    In general true yes sec guards do not patrol. However in Oakland… it’s not exactly right… here’s counter-example. Check out Downtown/Lake Merritt Biz Association security ambassadors – they patrol Uptown/Downtown and are in direct radio contact with OPD as eyes and ears in my area. I saw them chase two mugging suspects (later arrested by OPD) on bike. The crimanimals on foot were too dumb to split up. Anyway, these guys patrol the area regularly on foot and by bike. All day in fact. Check them out sometime – blue/white or orange/black uniforms.

    Not disagreeing with your general sentiment though. What’s the sentiment of minimum (or $12/hr) security guards to be proactive? You get what you pay for. There’s ABC Security, then there’s Blackwater, oops, Xe.

    Uptown neighborhood

  128. Mry

    I’d be really curious to see how long these “security guards” would work for low wages when people start shooting at them like they do to OPD. Probably not for long on cheap wages. Bad idea.

  129. Navigator

    Guys, I’m not talking about a mall security guard making 12hr. I’m talking about the City changing the city charter to be able to solicit bids from security companies outlining the city’s needs and requirements. Provisions like “yes you have to chase criminals” would be included along with many other specifics.

    Pay incintives for performance can also be included.

    I have no doubt that you can find qualified well trained private security firms which would be able to provide Oakland with a competent and visible security force for a fraction of the $200,000 it costs Oakland for each sworn police officer. A private security company could hire a security guard for $60,000 per year plus a smaller benefit package. We could have a force of 1400 private guards at reasonable salaries patroling Oakland for the same amount of money we now spend on 650 cops. Or, we could hire 800 security guards and use the savings to help balance the budget, inprove the parks, keep all the libraries open, maintain our streets and landscaped mediums, pave our roads, fix the sewers, etc.

    We’d have a more attractive city with more boots on the ground. We can also use cameras and other high tech devices to enhance the crime fighting ability of the private security force.

  130. len raphael

    Privatizing cops. I’m sure John Burris would contribute to that charter amendment campaign. Between lawsuits for use of force, and lawsuits for unarmed guards not being able to protect with force, it would not be worth doing. Get rid of binding arbitration, drop the compensation, give the cops iron clad min staffing and no layoffs.

    Make the Mayor go on night patrols with OPD for a couple of months, so she can see it from cop point of

    Then maybe she can learn how to run a big city police dept before the clock runs out.
    -len raphael

  131. Dax

    Ken, re-”Sad we’re going after unionized pensions”

    I don’t think I’ve seen anyone here “go after” the concept of union pensions, nor public employee union pensions as a concept.

    What you may perceive as “going after” is examining when and where excessive pensions are being given for a given amount of work, at a given wage, at a early age.

    Look at Oakland. Don’t even focus on the much discussed safety workers.
    Just look at any regular Oakland worker.

    If you go to work for Oakland at age 23, you can retire at age 55 with a 86.4% pension. In addition to that, you get Social Security. Plus you get another $425 per month in medical payments covered, which continue even after you get covered by Medicare.

    So you have a Oakland painter, working a 37.5 hour week with loads of holidays and about 4 weeks vacation.

    His/her pension at age 55, about $60,000 per year plus another what…$12,000+ from Social Security at some point.
    For a total of $72,000 per year, higher than the highest years base pay, plus another $5,000 per year for medical costs even after Medicare kicks in.

    That particular worker’s expected lifespan after retiring should be about 27.5 years if male, and over 30 years if female

    Is that the type of pension people are “going after”?
    Do you think Oakland can afford that type of pension for mid level workers?
    How about if we simply re-create the generous pensions we had in Oakland prior to 2004.
    Everyone seemed happy and well pensioned back then. No one was suggesting Oakland’s pensions were paltry or low in 1999 or 2002.

  132. Navigator


    Who says the guards would be unarmed? It just doesn’t make sense to spend $191,000 on each Oakland cop and have 650 that you never see. It hasn’t made sense for the last 30 years but we keep doing the same thing over and over again.

    The key is more security on the ground along with new technology. I’m talking about GPS positioning for each cop car. I’m talking about instant crime reporting to a patrol car for all 911 calls in their designated beats. I’m talking about instant shot spotter technology going to patrol car computers along with feeds from designated neighborhood security cameras in private and public areas. No more 911 dispatchers telling officers where to go after talking with citizens.

  133. ralph

    I think you are mistaken on Oakland retirees receiving Social Security. This would only be the case if the ‘ee had private sector experience. Can’t get Social Security if you don’t contribute to OASDI. See the 1935 Act.

  134. Transponder

    Police Officers are not just “armed guards”, or “security”. They are law enforcement officers, peace keepers, and social workers. They deal with the most negative aspects of society, because we do not want to deal with it. They derived their powers from the law, they take a oath to uphold the law and to protect the citizenry…

    Your 1400 security guard solution is nothing but flawed, wishful thinking at best. I have never heard of any municipality eliminating their entire police department in favor of security guards. Are these guards going to be taking reports like the police? Are they going to be executing search warrants? court orders? Will they be pulling people over? Will they be chasing people in the vehicles, running red lights and such without training?!. Also, there are alot of mandated state, and federal laws which requires certain task be done by sworn law enforcement officers. WTH are you thinking. Lastly, who are they answerable to? The people of Oakland, or ABC security.

    Think about it, Police Officers go through a long process to get hired. They go through recruiting and background checks, attend 6 month of academy, go on to a field training program that can last 4 months, and then be on probation.

    A guard attends a 1 day, 8-hour class to get their guard card.

    Thank god you, Navigator are in no position of leadership or political office, or god help us.

  135. len raphael

    Nav, i was including armed private cops in the litigation risk summary. I’ve heard from a credible source that at least for private residents, Bay Alarm will not provide armed response dispatch or patrols for the flatlands because they decided too high a chance of having to fire a weapon.

    The city would have to assume all the liability but wouldn’t have full control over training and operations. Recipe for expensive lawsuits.

    Personally, i think Blackwater type companies preform a useful service for things like guarding diplomats and reporters. Much of the abuses of private security companies came from their immunity from local law. That wouldnt be case here. ergo, the big buck lawsuits.

    I’m sure investing in high tech would pay. Should we just have Batts charge it on his Centurion amex?

  136. len raphael

    Nav, good thing you haven’t told any of your OPD neighbors your plans for them. :)


  137. Daniel Schulman

    There is reasonable middle ground between policing by OPD and hiring security guards. Many cities across the nation contract with their county sheriff department or other municipalities for policing services. Locally, for example, Dublin has a contract with Alameda County for the deputy sheriffs to provide police services.

    When I lived in the city of West Hollywood, we had a LA County sheriff station in town which provided our policing services. During my tenure in WeHo there was a big push to replace the sheriffs with a local police force that proponents claimed would be more responsive to local needs — it failed resoundingly.

    Of course Dublin and West Hollywood, and I would guess other cities with contracted police services, are much smaller than Oakland. They also lack the history and tradition of an OPD. In addition, as has been mentioned in other contexts, the city charter would need to be changed to allow outsourcing.

    Another model of provisioning police services between the two extremes people are discussing is combining with neighboring municipalities. Given the current realities, this solution, though, seems extremely unlikely.

  138. Navigator


    I understand that police officers have much more training than your average mall cop. Oakland just can’t afford $191,000 officers who haven’t been effective in reducing Oakland’s crime rate and who take all that income out of Oakland.

    If 93% of those officers lived in Oakland instead of the reported 7%, then I woudn’t be so quick to say let’s start from scratch. It’s not just the abysmal performance in reducing crime, it’s the fact that a huge percentage of Oakland’s general fund is taken out of Oakland and not circulated back into Oakland’s economy. It’s a double whammy that no city can afford.

    As far as the powers given to a private security force, much of that can be amended through changes in the City charter. There’s no reason that a private security force can’t do the same functions as our current police officers. Of course they’d be able to pull vehicles over and do most of the same things our current officers now do.

    Oakland would have to put out bids requesting a certain number of guards, requiring a certain number on patrol at peak crime hours and on holidays, establishing incintives for a 15% reduction in overall crime per year, etc. Oakland would also make sure that any illegal and unlawful conduct by the private security firm would be the liability of such firm. All law enforcement work would have to be performed under current laws with the liabilty going to the private security firm.

    Another plus for a private security contrator would be that many more of the personel would actually be involved in patroling the streets. We could do away with the top heavy comand structure and the specialized units and get a much higher percentage of patrol personel.

    The final benefit is that many of these jobs could go to Oakland residents. How many people in Oakland would love to be involved in improving their communitty while making a decent salary of $60,000 with resonable benefits? This money would be circulated in Oakland while making many neighborhoods more stable.

  139. J

    Navigator, you seem intent on portraying the Oakland Police as ineffective in addressing crime in Oakland. What do you base this on? Do you ever take into account that the Oakland Police have been woefully understaffed? I don’t think the average person would argue against a more efficient and cost effective police force that can actually put more cops on the beat. However, your statements fail to take into account the context in which Oakland Police are operating–they work in one of the most crime ridden cities in the entire country, have been woefully understaffed, have not been given the appropriate technology and equipment, are undercut at every corner by our elected officials and are generally reviled by a significant number of Oakland residents. Crime reduction is about numbers–increase the number of police to levels that are comparable to other similarly sized communities and then let’s see what happens. I do agree that if you can pay less for each officer, then you can afford to put more police on the streets. IMHO, private security is a recipe for disaster. You think we have enough litigation and claims against the police department, wait until you put private security guards on the street. John Burris would be salivating.

  140. Antwone

    I’m in favor of hiring private security. It’s obvious that the key to reducing crime in Oakland is more boots on the ground. With no budget you’re not going to do that with $200k police officers. So…it’s time to start looking at alternatives.
    people talk about litigation I’ll take litigation over widespread crime epidemic any day.

  141. Navigator


    I don’t agree with your charecterization of the city of Oakland. Oakland is not “one of the most violent cities in the western World.” or “one of the most crime ridden cities in the nation.” Oakland has some “violent and crime ridden” neighborhoods.

    That’s what makes the failures of OPD at an incredible amount of money even more frustrating. Oakland has the highest household income and education levels of ANY of the top ten “most dangerous cities.” Oakland has pockets of intense crime. Five of Oakland’s 35 police beats are responsible for half of all homicides in the city. These facts make the utter failure of OPD even mnore appauling. Should we raise the number of cops per capita to the number in Saint Louis and Detroit? It hasn’t done those cities much good has it?

    As I’ve said previuosly Oakland’s high crime neighborhoods are a relatively small area in square miles. Considering that you hardly ever see a cop in Oakland’s low crime areas, you’d think they’d have enough cops to make an impact on the crime rate in the intense crime neighborhoods. The problem is you only hace between 250 and 280 PATROL officers. Maybe if they had the vetran cops off of their current gigs and out on the streets patroling the city we’d have a different situation.

    Sorry J, they’ve failed and the proof is in the “most dangerous city” studies that our friends across the Bay love to trumpet to the entire Bay Area in order to marginalize Oakland as an economic competitor.

  142. len raphael

    Antwone, the effect of litigation is not just or even mostly monetary. Litigation changes OPD behavior in unintended ways by encouraging cops to give cya priority over effective policing.

    If opd had better management, proper staffing, less iternal politics, and support by Mayor and CC, lawsuitis could spur it to improve service delivery instead of creating more cya documentation and procedures.

    Has anyone drawn up a list of the accomplishments vs the cumulative financial cost of the Rider’s Negotiated Settlement?

    -len raphael, temescal

  143. Transponder

    Dear Navigator,

    Please stop your insanity, people might actually believe what you’re saying is fact. Once again your lack of knowledge on how a city police force functions makes you sound foolish and arrogant. Sworn California Peace Officers derived their powers from the 830s of Penal Code, not the city charter. However, police officers may enforce local municipal code. Security guards do not have any of the powers police officers have, and the city charter cannot magically give them the powers to do so… LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR, A municipality government cannot give security guards the powers to arrest or to use force under any 830s sections of the penal code. (With your logic, we can “amend” the charter to give janitors and businessmen police powers and to carry a loaded gun in public, AND you’ll be justifying your position by saying Oakland can do what it wants because it’s in the charter…)

    Security guards will not be able to pull vehicles over, you need to be a sworn law enforcement officer to use the “solid forward-facing red light” to conduct traffic stops. (Section 830s of the Penal Code.)

    AND even if Oakland were to stipulate that they would not be liable for any misconduct performed on part of the security guard firms, Oakland will still be named in such lawsuits. It is ultimately up to a Judge or a Jury to determine whether Oakland is liable, NOT contract stipulations. I can already see liability in part of the City hiring untrained guards to perform police officer duties by illegal seizing people, using inappropriate force, and false imprisonment, just to name a few.

    And also, just FYI, if you limited the hiring of any position to only a certain area; you are also cutting out the most-qualified individuals for the position. So, in theory you’ll get less for your money because you’ll be getting someone who less qualified. Since the people who live out of the area will be unable to apply…

    Oakland also stands to lose millions in state and federal grants, because they do not have a police force, but instead contracted with security guards.

  144. J

    Thanks Navigator,

    I understand your point, and it is a very important point. Five beats are causing a disproportionate amount of crime in Oakland. As a consequence, Oakland Police should be targeting and focusing more resources on those five beats to deter crime and respond faster to crimes in progress and ostensibly arrest those who are committing crimes. I do not disagree with that approach, particularly when you have limited resources. Lack of targeting these five beats is a failure of the police.

    Where exactly are those 5 beats and who exactly is committing the crimes in those five beats?

    The reason I ask this is that if such an effort were to actually be undertaken, it is likely that there would be complaints from the affected communities and their City Councilmembers of police profiling, racism, and a police state.

    Look at the gang injunctions in North Oakland and Fruitvale targeting a black gang and a Latino gang. Targeted, focused, and limited in scope to known criminals with gang affiliations. That was only an injunction. Now start flooding some of these same neighborhoods with more police. You can only imagine the liberal outcry about violating civil rights.

    The perception is that Oakland is a crime ridden city, the reality is that most of the crime is only concentrated in five beats. The reality is that there is very little political will and very little community support to target those who commit a disproportionate amount of crimes. The reality is that the spillover effect into nearby stable neighborhoods distorts people’s perceptions of crime in Oakland. However, perception is reality, and reality is perception.

    We need to be able to both target these five beats and provide police services to the rest of Oakland. This requires far more police than the 600 or so we currently have.

  145. Navigator


    It seems like OPD has Oakland over a barrel because of that (section 830′s of the Penal Code)

    How about lobying to change that code so that Oakland isn’t forced to hire $191,000 cops who don’t reduce crime?

    Obviouly these “qualified people” from Pleasanton, San Ramon, Danville, Castro Valley, and Alameda have done a great job in reducing crime in Oakland and keeping Oakland from wasting millions in lawsuits.

    I’d rather take my chances with $60,000 per year private cops from Oakland who have a vested interest in their city and would circulate their salaries in Oakland’s economy.

  146. Dax

    Ralph, You might be or are correct on the city miscellaneous employee example I used, not getting Social Security.

    I had just done some looking at Alameda County employee’s retirement system, and they DO get their pensions + Soc. Sec.

    I’ll have to call Oakland just to be certain for myself regarding miscellaneous employees.

    However, given that most Oakland employees don’t work more than 25 years for the city, one can assume that they weren’t unemployed the rest of the time between age 18 and 50 to 65.

    For example, if you worked 25 years for Oakland, and retired at age 60, you would have 17 years in which you would have been employed else where.
    More than enough to accumulate some Social Security pension.
    I understand you only need 40 quarters or 10 years to gain some portion.

    Still, using the Oakland city painter as my example, if he got no Social Security, and worked from 23 until only age 55, he would still retire with a pension of nearly $60,000 a year, plus another $425 in medical payments for life.

    I only threw in the possible Social Security as “capper” on what is already over and above what should be appropriate for Oakland’s pensions.
    Painter, off at age 55, with $60K for life.

    Various public agencies include or exclude Social Security in addition to their regular pension.
    Take a look at the Alameda Co. pension calculator, with its Soc. Sec. provision


  147. Antwone

    what they need to do is have a graduated pension. So that You only receive the full pension if you’re a resident of Oakland.

  148. len raphael

    Few states and local govts participate in fed social security. I’m not sure why, but i’ve read various historical explanations but usually it came down to local govts convincing themselves they could do it better and cheaper for a higher return. No doubt the financial services industry did its best to help them reach that conclusion.

    in hindsight that wasn’t a good idea to completely opt out of the fed system. local govts should have “integrated” theri retirement plans with social security the way most private sector companies do.

    (btw, i’m vastly ignorant of pension rules and operations, so don’t quote me on any of this).


    i’ve seen the suggestion that cities should be making the expensive switch to a combo of social security, plus a 401k type, plus a much less rich defined benefit plan than we now provide.

    the other big piece is eliminating free/subsidized med retirement benefits pre medicare eligibility age, except for police and fire. (I’m not sure cops get that now).

    Have the city and employees would contribute to medicare under the ulsual age eligibility rules.

    -len raphael, temescal

  149. len raphael

    As long as Lindheim is still on the payroll, why not have him work with a pension consultant and come up with some reform proposals.

    He’d have some independence because he’s a lame duck holdover. Certainly knows all the issues and the players.

    Doesn’t he have a doctorate in econ and worked for the World Bank at one point?

    -len raphael, temescal

  150. Dax

    Len, re-”Few states and local govts participate in fed social security. ”

    Well, as I said in my prior post, California does and Alameda County does.

    In each case, only a fairly tiny reduction is made in their pensions, then when you add on the Social Security, many many workers end up with pension+Soc. Sec. equaling more than they made while working.

    For example, a 60 year old Alameda Co. employee making $69,000, with 32 years, will get a $$51,600 pension, reduced by only $87 a month when they also collect their full Social Security. Leaving them making almost 100% of their prior income when the two are combined.

    Take a look at this for California.

    Of course, many local workers, even in Oakland, only put in perhaps 20 or less years with the city, meaning they may have 20 or more years on Social Security to add to their 20 year, 54% city pension…plus the $425 per month in medical coverage from Oakland.
    If that $69,000 Oakland painter worked only 20 years, he would get a $37,260 pension plus $5,100 medical payments, plus his Social Security for 20 years. Not sure what the SS would be for that.
    Anyway, add it onto the $42,360 he gets from the city.

    If the painter works fewer years, but all for the city, retires at age 55 with 32 years, he gets $60,000 + $5,100 in medical.
    All from a career with a very generous $69,000 base salary for a 37.5 hour work week.

    Alameda Co., or Oakland, the guy comes out doing very very well. Amazingly well.
    Unaffordably well.

  151. len raphael

    Do non sworn city employees have the legal right to strike? If yes, if I were a union leader I’d say build up the strike fund. Between the impossibility of getting that compensation for most city employees in private industry, or State and Fed employment; the sense of getting punished for the city’s financial sins/wall street; treated like second class to fire and police; would be worth rolling the dice on a general city union strike.

  152. len raphael

    Angry city workers, feeling punished, or as the the other The Boss put it “on account of the economy”.

  153. Izzy Ort

    Things in Oakland aren’t so bad . . .

    That the usual gang of wannabe revolutionary idiots can’t make it worse.

    According to Indybay ,some people going under the rubric of “Anti-cut”, a name apparently stolen from thugs in the U.K. who like to riot and break sh*t, held a “rally” in downtown Oakland during the last Art Murmer, and they’re planning another one on June 17.

    It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see they’re trying to wind each other up to the point where they can generate enough bodies, enough cover (an initial auxiliary cohort of non-violent protestors until it gets dark), and enough bravado to start breaking sh*t again downtown.

    ” . . . a promising opening act to what we hope will be a long, hot summer. There were probably about 100 0f us in the streets — good turnout for something organized with only a couple of weeks of notice, especially after a period of relative quiet. Let’s see if we can double this next time.”

    ” We chose this spot not only because it opens onto a network of streets and therefore seems tactically strong, providing us with a number of ways to exit, but because it sits at the meeting point of two major East Bay thoroughfares. . . . for many of us, joining (or finding points of connection between) the rebellions of Oakland and the campus rebellions of the last couple of years has been a really important, if unfinished, endeavor.”


    It’s beyond ironic that these people who want to smash the State are so adamant that the State must remain fully funded, rather than shrunk. Apparently they want the Oppressor to keep doling out goodies until the day they’re ready to hurl it onto the ash heap of history. I would think they’d be in favor of massive funding cuts of social programs and lots more cops so as to aggravate the inherent contradictions of capitalism and hasten the revolution. Then again, maybe they’re just looking for any excuse to break sh*t.

    If this actually develops into anything, and the promoters clearly hope it does, I hope Mayor Quan has figured out that control rods don’t work with these nimrods.

  154. len raphael

    Funny, now we have wannabe weathermen aka “days of rage” circa 1969, chicago. but no, more likely a copycat of the arab day of rage.

    pity, John Russo won’t be around for this sideshow.

    Would be full circle to have a Columbia grad prosecuting wannabe weathermen. Dan Siegel could appreciate it, since he and Quan are of that vintage.


  155. JB

    Len- Given that Lindheim’s sole reason for sticking around is to obtain 5 years of CalPERS credit (i.e., “vest”), and then immediately receive his pension benefit, I don’t think he’s the best candidate for pension reform.

  156. len raphael

    Dax, that’s just funny. You want to see a tax administration mess, look at Ohio which has city, county, state income taxes.

    keeps us accountants fully employed.

  157. Parent of Two

    I’m so sorry to hear about your home and so grateful for your thoughtful piece.

  158. The Boss

    If Oakland gets the authority to levy income taxes, you can forget home values here. For an example, take a look at Lake Tahoe. For the same house that costs $150k in California, you’d pay $600k in Nevada.

    The difference is almost 100% income taxes. Your ability to build is controlled by TRPA (a bi-state regional agency), so that’s not a difference. The only other difference is community quality and schools, which are largely a function of the wealth levels of the inhabitants.

    What a nightmare.

  159. annoyed

    The robbery and traffic divisions have been cut to the bone. When was the last time any of you saw a cop on a motorcycle? Traffic control is almost nonexistent in Oakland. There have been articles written in the mainstream media about Oakland’s abysmal clearance rate due to the unconscionable cuts in investigations.

    Whoever said this city is anti police is exactly right. But we just can’t cry enough for the poor put upon criminals. We’ve had some horrific violent crimes over the past month or two. Have you heard one elected official step up and denounce any of them? Have you heard anyone from the community? Has anyone stepped up to say they want police resources dedicated to bringing any of these terrorists to justice? With the possible exception of the murder of Mr. Campos, the owner of Otaez, there has been a noticeable silence from City Hall. These people don’t care about our safety and they hate the cops. And their marching orders come squarely from residents and voters.

    A three month-old child was murdered over the weekend in East Palo Alto. It was a crime that shocked the police and the community. A community church leader stood before cameras with diverse members of the community to denounce the killing in strong and clear words. He didn’t express regret of sadness for the shooters. When’s the last time that happened in Oakland? I don’t even know what is capable of shocking you people. And when something really bad happens and someone steps up to talk about it, it’s always what a tragedy it is for the killers family. Really? The victim is dead or maimed but the criminal is viewed with all kinds of compassion and sadness? I feel as badly for the terrorist who shot and killed Mr. Campos as I do for bin Laden’s demise.

    I have always considered myself to be to the left or far left on most issues but this stupidity in Oakland from residents and electeds about crime is pushing me further to right on public safety matters every day. I wil never embrace the death penalty but I will never shed one tear for some loser who terrorizes people in their homes, in their place of business, or just walking down the street.

    That 14-year old snot who robbed a liquor store and that resulted in the death of owner who pursued him? He shouldn’t be tried as an adult only because he is 14 but he should be buried alive under the jail until he is 25 and his parents should be required to perform community service for years for subjecting this community to such a little animal.

    I am sick of the sight of certain elected opining about the civil rights of criminals while having nothing to say about the dead and maimed.

    A good kid is shot down just days away from graduation and his future in college. A man is shot to death while doing gardening for a client. Mr. Campos shot to death while opening up his business, a man who was a pillar in the Fruitvale. The people who do these crimes do not deserve nor will they get an ounce of compassion from me. They are terrorists and they should be treated as such. Bring back the draft and ship these little bastards off to the MIddle East since they like violence so much.

    When an innocent person is killed in cold blood, the last thing I want to hear about is how the poor criminal made a bad decision. A bad decision is going back to a beautician who already butchered your hair once. It’s a heck of a lot more than a bad decision to walk into a store that you have been banned from, shove the owner, and steal his property. It’s the worst kind of criminal arrogance and it does not deserve anyone’s crocodile tears. There was a time when an act like this produced community outrage and the family was ashamed of what their relative did. Not in Oakland.

  160. len raphael

    Annoyed, what depressed me was the reaction of the father of the young women murdered at the side show the other week. could be he’s just in shock, but an interview with him concluded with him saying he was going to volunteer for a Measure Y anti violence program.

    Turning the other cheek is one thing, but Measure Y?

    btw, for reactions of other oaklander’s to bin laden http://oaklandnorth.net/2011/05/02/oaklanders-react-to-osama-bin-ladens-death/

    I’m not so sure that your attitude toward bin laden’s demise was in synch with that of many oakland residents.

    -len raphael, temescal

  161. Navigator


    There’s no excuse for thugs who shoot people. The problem is there are way too many guns made available to ignorant teenagers who are impulsive and probably think they’re playing a video game.

    The stuff that happens in Oakland happens in every major city in the United States every day of the week. It happens in Chicago, in San Francisco (read the Examiner) in Saint Louis, Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, LA, etc.

    Oakland is just under the SF microscope so everything gets magnified.

    Speaking of SF, what are the odds that the big U2 concert in Oakland will turn into a “San Francisco” event just like the “you think you can dance” auditions at the Paramount in “San Francisco?” I’m betting on “U2′s San Francisco concert” I just hope Bono doesn’t come on stage in a Giants jersey and say’s “Hello San Francisco.”

  162. livegreen

    Yeah, Nav, that dance episode was ridiculous. But Bono’s been to meetings here before about the AIDS crisis in the black community. He knows where Oakland is. His promotion people might not care though…

  163. len raphael

    JB, thought Lindheim was only around till end of this month. That wouldn’t give him 5 years.

  164. Dax

    I may have been NOT paying attention.
    Say the council and mayor pass a balanced budget by end of June.

    Is it legal to pass a “balanced” budget based on a un-passed parcel tax that requires a 66.7% vote?

    The June 7th Chronicle article is disturbing.


    Two thirds vote to raise taxes $80.
    Why not place a ballot measure to lower crime by 33% in 2012.
    Then with the lower crime rate we won’t need so many police.
    BTW, does a “lower crime rate” measure require a two-thirds vote or a simple majority?

  165. MarleenLee

    Dax, even worse that trying to balance a budget with a tax that is unlikely to pass, is balancing a budget that would still require borrowing $11 million because the City wouldn’t even be able to collect the tax until November, 2012! Wouldn’t it be great if we could all claim our budgets are balanced by simply charging away on the credit card? That’s what the City has been doing for years, and why we’re now hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

  166. len raphael

    What’s really odd is that Quan is “only” asking for an $80 parcel tax. Did she pick that number by asking her cat? Now I remember, it was her poll.

    But still, if you’re going to spend your political capital (i wanted to use a different phrase but it wasn’t pc) on a parcel tax, why not go for one that will get you thru the rest of her 4 year term?

    Must be counting on selling everything to the RDA and borrowing for the retirement costs.

  167. Dax

    Len, if Jean Quan was thinking clearly she should have asked for more than $80, but not that much more.

    The best choice for a parcel tax would have been $91.25 or about 14% more than she is requesting.
    Why? Because it could have been presented as only asking for 25 cent per day to “Save Oakland”… save programs x, y, and z, from cuts.
    Who could say no to 25 cents?

    $80 has no catchy feel. Easy to say no to $80. More than one in three voters will say no to $80.

  168. Mry

    Asking her cat, that got a laugh out of me tonight, thank you. I vote for recalling her please.

  169. Naomi Schiff

    Recalls aren’t a great way to fix things, if the recent history of California is any example. We should try pitching in together and keep pushing on the council and the mayor to solve the budget puzzle.

  170. Dax

    The SF MUNI rejection vote.
    Do these public employee unions have any idea about the current public mood which has taken a decided downturn just in the past 10 days.

    “A CNN poll shows 48 percent of Americans feel the U.S. economy is headed for an all-out depression within a year”

    I certainly hope the Oakland unions, the mayor, and the city council members wake up to the increasingly sour and depressed mood in the public.
    The public is in NO mood for generously paid workers acting like they’re owed everything they’ve had, just because they’ve had it before and expecting the public to pay more taxes to keep their lifestyle in place.

    Imagine MUNI employees rejecting 3 years at current pay,.
    High school diploma holders making $75K to $100K with full benefits and pension in the middle of a depression.

    Time for them ALL to wake up to reality.
    The anger is spreading faster than I’ve seen it in the past 3 years.
    Mayor Quan, take a new poll. See the real mood in the neighborhoods.
    Get off expecting your silly parcel tax to pass. Its either significant cuts in compensation or loss of jobs.

    Are city employee’s listening to the rapidly changing public mood?
    Are the mayor and council also listening to that same changing mood?

  171. J



    Public employees, particularly Oakland rank and file, do not seem to understand and acknowledge the current economic and political reality. Oakland has a deep budget crisis and nothing more than a comprehensive solution will pull us out of this morass.

    That solution involves more concessions from non-public safety rank and file and requires them to stop hiding behind the skirt of the public safety pension and salary issues. Recent comments from the union opposing the transfer of the Oakland Museum to a non-profit because of the loss of union jobs is a classic example of how far out of touch the unions are.

    The middle class in Oakland is tired of feeding the gravy train. Jean Quan is no where in sight taking cues from Dellums to hide and she has failed to aggressivley and proactively address the budget crisis. Quan seems to think the only way out is to further tax the overtaxed middle class.Her tax and spend program is way out of touch. Oakland Mayor=MIA…

  172. len raphael

    what happened at the EBMUD meeting? I assume the rate increase will pass and the only employee concessions will be to forgo raises.

    re: is Quan and Jerry Brown also, misreading CA voters on public employee compensation?

    Unlike Demo Cuomo of NY, and Mayor Bloomberg of NYC, Brown has only proposed minor pension reforms as part of his bargaining with Republicans. Heck, Cuomo only had to bargain with democrats.

    Whatever my opinons about Brown’s policies might be, his political instincts are superb.

    So either Brown (and Quan) are sure that voters are willing to sacrifice their own well beeing via service cuts and higher taxes to protect promises/expectations made to public workers,


    they figure the voters are much less important than muni union support at election time.

    For sure, outside of a few areas, the tea party movement is much weaker in CA than elsewhere.


  173. Antwone

    “We’ve had some horrific violent crimes over the past month or two. Have you heard one elected official step up and denounce any of them? Have you heard anyone from the community? Has anyone stepped up to say they want police resources dedicated to bringing any of these terrorists to justice?”

    This. You hit the nail on the head. Where’s the outrage? We have no real leadership in Oakland.

  174. Ravi

    “Recalls aren’t a great way to fix things, if the recent history of California is any example. We should try pitching in together and keep pushing on the council and the mayor to solve the budget puzzle.”

    Apples and oranges, absolutely. California recall was a big money rightwing thing.

    My guess is that most of Oakland considers itself “progressive.” But Oakland’s progressivism is frozen-in-time in an adolescent fantasy world. It’s absolutely incapable of envisioning, much less actually enacting, any real change.

    So “we” pooh-pooh anything that might wake people up, like a major recall campaign.

    Yes, we can wait-and-see how the budget challenges devolve. Keep in mind Quan’s historic performance, as well as that of most CC members, on budgetary problems. They are what have led us to the current debacle.

  175. J

    Antwone, et.al.

    There is no leadership from the Mayor’s Office when it comes to crime. Can you imagine Jean Quan stepping up at a crime scene and expressing outrage when she is openly derisive and combative with the police brass, has employed Dan Siegal as her attorney and openly opposes gang injuctions, has a budget that foresees the loss of an additional 60 police via attrition, and has supported the diversion of millions of taxpayer dollars to social programs to the detriment of police staffing levels. She has no legitimacy to step up at a crime scene to pledge support and funding for more police and to encourage focusing police efforts on the five beats that cause the most crime. So what is Mayor Quan gonna do step up and say that she will implement more after school programs?What a joke and what an insult to the victims of crime. Don’t you remember her flippant response when she herself was mugged? Of course there is no leadership–these crimes and the ongoing crime problems in Oakland are a stark reminder that the social programs are not working. Some people no matter how much help you offer will continue to do bad things. You need police to prevent them from doing bad things and arrest them when they do. It’s that simple–yet Jean Quan doesn’t get it.

  176. len raphael

    Ravi, Desley Brooks might say that there isn’t widespread outrage against level of crime because there isn’t widespread crime: “only in a few hotspots” if i’m quoting her correctly from CC session.

    My theory is that crime impacts the majority of residents, but the vast majority of those residents are

    1. not likely to vote, or
    2. too busy trying to survive than fight city hall or
    3. have lived with high levels of crime for so long a spike doesn’t motivate them to storm city hall

    The other residents have gotten immunized to crime reports over the years, plus share Quan’s “you can’t police your way of crime” attitude. They accept Measure Y type stuff as a a band-aid at best and at worst as a combo of political pork, bread, circuses, and placebo.

    How these voters will jump when they have to choose between libraries and Measure Y, or cops, is the question.

    Anyone know what the total population of the high crime areas is ? And what percentage of voter turnout comes from those areas?

    -len raphael, temescal

  177. Naomi Schiff

    There are many ways to express dismay about crime, and not all of them entail useless rhetorical attacks on the mayor. Seems to me there are many NCPC people and other groups working proactively to protect their neighbors and themselves, and to get action from their councilmembers and the mayor. I see plenty of outrage, but outrage in itself is not productive. Focus on achievable steps. Ranting isn’t an action. Support your neighborhood groups and work to get response from city council.

  178. livegreen

    Naomi, I agree with you the NCPC’s are good, but they themselves can’t prevent crime. They can’t stop gang members, robbers, people with a gun, drug dealers, or pimps. Yes, they can call OPD. But OPD is understaffed, as are the PSO’s (they just consolidated beats giving more work to fewer officers). Also, I believe some of the CRT teams that used to both support PSO’s and take actions on their priorities have been shrunk or disbanded.

    Finally, one of the best agencies in Oakland, the Nuisance Dept., had only 1 person in it last time I checked. (If this has changed, it’s not by any meaningful #).

    I agree with you that we need to be proactive and not just complain. But when those of us who have been active don’t see signs of progress it belittles our efforts and, frankly, wears us out.

    It’s not only the inactive residents who get tired of the constant, unending, unsolved challenges of Oakland. It’s also those of us who are active.

  179. J


    Wouldn’t it really be great if NCPC’s could solve all of our crime. I find Oakland’s insistence on trying everything to solve crime but hiring more police to be fascinating and incredibly self-defeating.

    Livegreen nailed it on the head. NCPC’s are good at getting neighbors to know each other and to focus on hotspots or problem houses. But, they are hardly the solution to Oakland’s persistently high and longstanding crime rates. Anyone who has ever been a member of an NCPC knows this. NCPC’s are nothing more than community informants who provide information to the police. You still need the police to patrol the streets, respond to crimes and arrest criminals. Really it is not all that complicated.

    Pointing out our dear Mayor’s shortcomings may be “complaining” to some, but to others it is raising awareness of where the true problem lies. The reality is that our dear Mayor and City Council control the purse strings for hiring more police. Mayor Quan has done little to nothing to keep the numbers of police from going down. Mayor Quan has consistently demonstrated over her career a preference for social programs as a way to address crime rather than beefing up the police force.

    So Ravi you are right. There are a lot of Oakland residents who don’t get it. They are the ones that voted in Mayor Quan and Mayor Dellums before her. Perhaps there are other more realistic examples of how to reduce crime rather than telling everyone to just join an NCPC.

  180. len raphael

    sanjiv has been floating what he calls gossip but which sounds more like several council members using him to run a counter to Quan’s proposal up the public flagpole to gauge the reaction. Central piece seems to be a combo of police (fire?) concessions plus an every friday city wide furlough for non sworn employees.

    wouldn’t be surprising if the cops conceeded the 9% retirement contrib plus something close to 10% (hmm, or at least looked like 10%) to match the misc employees’ “20%” furlough.

    other than the question of whether these are cuts in addition to existing temporary ones or not, at best they patch the fiscal road for one more year. what happens when next year’s deficit is the already projected 20 Mill higher at 78Mill (pre PFERS) and real estate revenue continue to decline.

    Suppose you have to be an optimist to be a politician, but i suspect our officials truly believe that we are simply in a down economic cycle that will be fine a couple of years.

  181. Dax

    Question regards cutting the budget.

    I see a department I don’t understand that well. Actually I know very little about it.
    The Comm. & Economic Develop Agency
    In 2009 there were over 400 people working there.
    Excluding some part time workers and some temporary workers, you still had
    –360 employees over $40K plus benefits
    –330 employees over $50K, plus full benefits, and over
    –200 employees with salaries over $75K plus full benefits.
    –75 employees with salaries over $100K plus full benefits.

    As well as a below mentioned former employee at over $147,000 plus all benefits and her now large pension.

    What is the value of all these people and how many are being reduced in numbers? Those that stay, how much is their salary being reduced?

    In looking down the list, I see way up above the $145,000 level, names such as Holloway-Renwick which caught my attention so I searched it with Oakland and contracts and figured out why I remembered that name from the news and discussions here.
    Found articles about a Kilian investigation of why some $4 million of contracts went to a certain debris removal outfit, #1 on Oakland’s list of private contractors.
    I don’t know the final outcome of the issue.
    She is no longer with the city, but it calls to mind the regulation and oversight in this entire department.

    Why I happened to look up what this Comm. & Economic Develop Agency does is after recently seeing a employee doing what we’ll call, “other than city work” on city time, and using city resources in the process. (commercial endeavors)

    So, it brings to mind, what is this agency all about in the current year’s fiscal situation?
    What are they producing of value to the city.
    How effective and efficient are they in adding any value to our current city condition.

    Or, are many of their employees left overs from better funded times and having far less then full time duties now, such that they have time to work at non city functions during the week.
    Would the city be harmed if 40 to 100 of these employees were let go? Why.

    Is this a well managed and effective part of Oakland’s city government in the year 2011?

    Isn’t redevelopment sharply curtailed now, and if so, are we still carrying staffing from better times?
    Are they all with full work loads despite the downturn in development?

    Remember, we’re being asked for a new parcel tax and being told everything has been cut to the bone.

  182. FloodedByCEDA

    The “Kilian investigation ” barely scratches the surface of CEDA’s problems. This department is in serious need a staff reduction of at least 50% . Watch for further criminal activity to be exposed early next month.

  183. Naomi Schiff

    You are correct that CEDA needs to be scrutinized, however, its budget is by law somewhat distinct from the general fund. Back somewhere in the ancient history of this blog it has been discussed in more detail. The current budget shortfall we’re hearing about is the general fund. One current connection between the two is the proposal to transfer ownership of the Kaiser Conv. Center to redevelopment. It is quite respectable for redevelopment to be engaged in property transfers and in physical improvements to infrastructure or development in the redevelopment areas (basically the low-lying parts of town, see map on city’s website). CEDA is supposed to do business attraction and small business support in the redevel. areas, and affordable housing development activities. There are restrictions on what types of positions redevelopment can pay for. The position has to contribute to legally defined redevel. activities in order to be paid from that pot of money. Up to about 20% of the redevel. funds can be used for administration (some of those high salaries mentioned above may be in there). Run of the mill general city admin functions, libraries, parks & rec, some of public works, and public safety mostly comes out of general fund. (Some departments also generate income from fees etc., such as parks and planning dept. and building permits.) Cities have become adept at carefully defining redevel. expenditures to keep within the restrictions but support some positions which may seem quite similar to general fund jobs. (Like many people, I have mixed feelings about redevelopment, and regard some of its activities with more enthusiasm than others.)

  184. livegreen

    FloodedbyCEDA, Oh, I can’t wait to see this one. I’m glad the day is fast approaching (I guess it’s close enough for you to be able to comment on it). I only hope it’s big enough to make the papers, beyond just a couple of blog posts…

  185. Dax

    Naomi, just so I make it clear, the Comm. & Economic Develop Agency employee I saw was not only doing activities outside of those that might be part of the General Fund, they were doing activities that were without question, completely private enterprise.
    Nothing at all related to the Comm. & Economic Develop Agency or any other city activity.

    Unless perhaps Comm. & Economic Develop Agency staff are given hours in the middle of the day to attend non city business.

    Again, given what I suspect is a lower work load than was the case 4 years ago, has the Comm. & Economic Develop Agency staffing levels been significantly reduced?
    Or do we now have the same number of staff engaged in a work load of perhaps 75% of the prior levels?
    Leaving either everyone working at a 75% level or some folks having little or nothing to fill their day.

    Even a 5% excess could mean 20 employees, each earning well over $100,000 in total compensation.
    Amounting to over $2,000,000 per year that could be saved.

  186. Ravi

    Len: “My theory is that crime impacts the majority of residents, but the vast majority of those residents are

    1. not likely to vote, or
    2. too busy trying to survive than fight city hall or
    3. have lived with high levels of crime for so long a spike doesn’t motivate them to storm city hall

    The other residents have gotten immunized to crime reports over the years, plus share Quan’s “you can’t police your way of crime” attitude. They accept Measure Y type stuff as a a band-aid at best and at worst as a combo of political pork, bread, circuses, and placebo.”

    All of which I would throw into the bin labeled “institutional or structural racism.” Which I would define as a process which has the precise effect of racism lacking only the personal animus or bigotry of some specific groups with regard to other specific groups.

    Not that Oakland is free of just plain traditional-style racism or bigotry.

    Those Oakland people who experience most of the crime shouldn’t be forgotten (or neglected by the callous and cynical, not to mention very nuts, Desley Brooks).


  187. livegreen

    Dax, If they were working for themselves, wonder if they have a Business License? Doubtful as nobody enforces those things anyway…

  188. Naomi Schiff

    Well Dax, if somebody is violating the law by working on outside projects during work hours, it would be good to report it to the city admin’s office, and I hope you did so.
    I just received a good letter on the NCPC and neighborhood listserves from Quan’s office, addressing the Mehserle release and related demonstration.

  189. Barry K

    Naomi- I agree with you on your statement: “There are many ways to express dismay about crime, and not all of them entail useless rhetorical attacks on the mayor. ”

    Instead, many of us should be collectively reporting Quan to the FBI; specifically to their Public Corruption unit. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/corruption

    As many of us await the outcome of the settlement Quan and the PEC will reach about her Mayoral campaign and the illegal and/or intentional misuses of her office and staff, there are other things the FBI could work on.

    Now’s the perfect time to report her violations with the City Charter (breaking) via the gangland defending Dan Siegal, and, her pay-to-play contracts with Waste Management, or, her refusal to provide Public Records or release poll data… and on and on and on….

  190. Naomi Schiff

    Barry, I don’t think divisiveness and attack mode are helpful. People can honestly differ on the injunction thing, and while I can understand your not liking Dan Siegel, I think you are wasting your time with these hysterics.

  191. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Speaking of hysterics, the grand award is a toss-up between Siegel re: gang injuctions and Quan re: the Parcel-Tax-That-Will-Prevent-Armageddon. Again.

  192. len raphael

    Re why residents accept high crime levels. could also be some self selection going on.

    Talking to an acquaintence who lives in the burbs but has worked in DTO for twenty years. She had asked a North Oakland real estate broker client whether he had any problems selling houses in trendy areas where you can see drug dealers hanging out and at night occassional gun fire. He replied that his young home buyers consider all that part of exciting urban life. They actually use the word “edgey” to describe what they liked about Oakland.

    I guarrantee you (to paraphrase the ex resident owner of men’s clothing store chain who moved to piedmont) that attitude will change once those young couples beget a couple of rug rats, and they find themelves reflexively putting the little house apes in the cast iron bath tub or on the floor next to the stove when they heard gunfire.

    if the couples stick around in Oakland to that point, you could get them to vote for martial law. But most of them don’t stick around.

  193. Naomi Schiff

    Len, I raised my kids in Oakland and stayed here. They are adults now, and they love Oakland and are proud of being from here. In many ways it became safer over the years, actually. Shortly after we moved to this street came the crack epidemic and there were dealers and shootings in my neighborhood. It subsided. Our neighborhood has come together as have many others, worked to make absentee landlords take responsibility for their property, and to push on the city for various kinds of help. And I note that you are still living here too! There are many wonderful things about this city, and although I am a realist and have contended with many awful incidents, I know that awful incidents happen elsewhere as well.

  194. Dax

    The Comm. & Economic Develop Agency

    The point is, whether the entire agency still has the work load such that the staffing levels of past years are necessary for current 2011-2012 project requirements.
    Regardless of whether its funds and budget are part of the General Fund, its still taxpayers money in one bucket or another.

    Is it a bloated, under worked, over paid, subsection of Oakland City government?

    I’m not getting the feeling that, other than proposed library cuts, Oakland is cutting anywhere near to the bone either in compensation or staffing.

  195. len raphael

    Naomi, i would say your family and mine were among the exceptions of families that could move to say berkely or the burbs, but did not as they raised their broods.

    my sons loved growing up in the flats but as teenagers they drew a line in the sand when i proposed moving us to a big East Oakland house with three fireplaces and a view of the bay. they said not safe for teenaged white boys to live in much of east o. too much testerone in those parts.

    many of our friends, including those who worked in oakland, moved to berkeley or castro valley for junior high and high school.

    for a while junior highs improved here, then deteriorated. high schools seem to be holding steady: great for high achievers. terrible for all others. But yes safer than they were ten years ago.

  196. Naomi Schiff

    Dax, I don’t know about all departments, but there were a number of layoffs last year around this time. I’m most familiar with the planning/zoning dept., and they had layoffs and also eliminated their highest planner classification, meaning some workers were downgraded, and raised permit fees to try to cover more of their operations. Didn’t public works lay off painters? Libraries took a cut then, to bring them close to the minimum gen. fund limit for continuing to collect Measure Q parcel tax. It’s harder for me to figure out parks and rec because some positions have migrated between there and public works. Actually I think traffic engineering positions moved around also. This year is not the beginning of job cuts. There have been some each year for several years. Parks and recs gardeners and maintenance has been especially hard hit over the last decade, as you can see from the weeds, and the desperate eagerness for teams of volunteers.

  197. Dax

    Naomi, thank you for your input.

    If the city wanted to gain any public support, they would make the precise number and nature of the true cuts public.
    Even your mention of them, makes me call into question how many actual cuts were made.
    As opposed to what was handled by attrition or moving people around, or spare time.

    What we need is the total payroll for given departments in 2011 versus 2009 etc.
    The total FTE employees.
    The level of work that department is now doing compared to prior years.
    Seems development must have crashed making for huge excesses in staffing even if 5% or 10% of the workforce was cut.

    If the necessary workload is down by 40% but the staff is only cut 10%, there is a problem.
    I’m not talking about every department, but in some particular ones.
    This Comm. and Development had over 400 employees in 2009.
    Are they under 350 now?
    I don’t know.

    All I know is one of them doesn’t have a full work load.
    I’m sure they aren’t the only one.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if nearly half the employees have only 50% to 75% of their prior workload, given the decline in development and other things.
    Busy work, less productivity, and play expands to fill the 37.5 hours.

    But I really don’t know and the city isn’t letting the public know.
    They just point to areas that make the citizens afraid. Libraries, visible trash pick-up, etc…then tell us without $80 they can’t make it.

    Thus far, no word on cuts in compensation like we’ve been hearing from San Jose and others. Quan is telling us nothing.
    The city council complains they don’t have any more than we do.

    I believe nothing coming from the mayor’s office until they start releasing the facts.
    Chuck Reed in San Jose was all over the press telling everyone what he was demanding and finally getting.
    Quan is only public about the 9% police contribution.
    Everything else is secret. Secret means its minimal. We won’t pass a parcel tax on that basis, probably not on any basis.
    She is living in a unreality and blaming the council for not joining her make believe world of finance.

    Her track record would indicate she is not competent in the area of finance.

  198. J


    You are right on and it isn’t ranting, hysterics or rhetoric.

    Mayor Quan and the unions representing the rank and file want to intentionally keep the public in the dark about the nature and extent of concessions provided by non-public safety staff and what their current compensation levels are. This is part of the blue smoke and mirrors intended to obfuscate the budget issues and prevent the public from focusing attention on the rank and file. They want to hide behind the public safety pension debate. Quan’s number one priority has been to focus the light only on public safety with the mantra that they take up the vast majority of the non-discretionary buget. Well isn’t it time to implement reforms that loosen up the tax revenues that are currently collected, but are immediately dedicated for certain uses.

    The only way to a real budget solution is to honestly put everything on the table. Quan is not honestly portraying the available options and has been taken to task by DeLafuente and Brooks. The options include: (1) additional 10-20% salary cuts; (2) salary reforms; (3) pension reforms; (4) reductions of high paying managers to ensure appropriate manager to staff ratios; (5) repeal of Kids First; (6) repeal of Measure Y to allow greater flexibility in how public safety dollars are spent; (7) charter amendment to allow outsourcing of any and all current City functions; and (8) priority based budgeting.

    However, our dear Mayor Quan says she only has time focus her efforts on passing a parcel tax.. You gotta be kidding? Isn’t her job to look at the budget in a comprehensive fashion and look at all options and provide realistic options.

    I totally agree with you that she is not being realistic and that her long track record of fiscal incompetence does not bode well for the City.

  199. annalee allen

    gardeners and tree trimmers are paid with general funds and their positions are being cut back, thereby impacting the upkeep of Oakland parks (and other landscaping such as traffic median ares). volunteers can do only so much to offset the cut backs. These are PWA positions by the way.

  200. Dax

    Today…..San Jose, not Oakland.

    “San Jose police have voted to accept a 10 percent pay cut, an agreement that is expected to save 156 officers from layoffs.”

    Pension reform negotiations still on the table and may be put on the ballot for the citizens to decide.

    San Jose mayor Chuck Reed, was bold and assertive in this agreement. I hear nothing about what Jean Quan is doing.
    It seems no one has any idea what is being negotiated in Oakland. Apparently even the city council doesn’t know what the mayor is aiming for. 5% of total comp?
    10% of total comp?….
    Or some meaningless figures made to look like a cut, but amounting to nothing.
    We just don’t know a thing.

    How can the residents of Oakland have any input if they have no idea what is even on the table.

  201. daretoeatapeach

    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been attempting to read the budget to understand how it is possible that we have reached a position where we must close so many libraries and this post is enormously helpful in explaining it all.

    I’d just like to add that overtime pay for OPD is not trivial. My sweetie was an LEO in Florida and he and the other officers were required to to work 80 hours a week. While my first reaction would be to agree to cut Oakland’s LEO staff, if the situation is anything like Florida it will only end up costing us more. One employee who is doing another full employee’s hours (i.e. 40 hours a week) but on higher overtime pay is not going to save the city any money. Moreover, I surely wouldn’t want to have the cop who shows up on my doorstep when I need her to be operating on four hours of sleep. I don’t know how much overtime OPD do, but I can’t see how it could possibly be a better situation than Florida, where funding for the police is a higher priority and the budget is not facing the same strains as Oakland. Just some food for thought.

    @Ravi: While I appreciate that it costs money to train new officers, surely it will cost more money to reopen libraries in brighter days. This is why the comparisons between cutting pay/jobs for police/fire and cutting libraries don’t quite fit. It is not like we are comparing cutting police to cutting librarians, we are talking about entire libraries and all of their programs, so a more fair comparison would be to closing police departments and fire stations. We are talking about dismantling our entire library system here, not just firing a few librarians! I don’t know how much it costs to buy 100,000 books to stock a new library, but the cost compared to training law enforcement must be trivial.

  202. len raphael

    dteap post reminds me that there are many local govts in parts of the country whose local economies dropped faster and further than ours, but have adapted without shuttering most of their libraries and greatly reducing police forces.

    Sure there are many that have made those kind of drastic cuts, but other than maybe Detroit, those are mostly very small cities and towns in severely hard hit areas.

    To some extent other bigger cities might be hanging on by their toenails like us, thru the same one time budget gimmicks we’ve pulled.

    But the sense I get is that the coastal California muni problems are largely self inflicted.

    -len raphael, temescal

  203. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you, dteap, for pointing out the falsity of the equivalence between public safety positions and closing down the libraries. The other important thing to note is that the libraries are a relatively small percentage of the budget. Public safety (police and fire) seem to be around 70%, the lion’s share of the general fund. Chipping away at the 30% of everything else–parks, libraries, senior centers, and IT for the city, etc.–doesn’t really solve the problem, but does seriously impair the civic fabric.

  204. J

    There is a major budget crisis in the City of Oakland. Both the Mayor’s Office and the City Council have failed to enact significant budget and staffing cuts early enough so that we are now in dire straits–in other words too little too late.

    Now, everything must be on the table including libraries. The idea that libraries are only a small and insignificant part of the budget and should be spared is the same failed mentality of the very politicians and bureaucrats that got us to where we are at. The idea that public safety is 70% of the “budget” is false. It is 70% of the “discretionary budget” not the entire City budget. One has to wonder why Mayor Quan is failing to show any leadership in eliminating or repealing mandated programs that take money right off the table, like Kids First, and trying to increase the discretionary pie.

    The Mayor and City Council have been using the 70% as a mantra to pressure and force the police to make concessions and to obfuscate the true budget picture. Well, we are at a point that all programs and all employees, not just police, must make concessions. Frankly, I would rather have police than libraries, parks, senior centers or any other service provided by the City. Without police, Oakland will become the wild west.

    Regarding overtime, there is not doubt Oakland Police consume an inordinate amount of overtime–ever wonder why that is? They are perennially overworked and understaffed. When you have a relatively small number of police responding to incredibly large numbers of crime on a daily basis that leads to burn out, physical injuries and emotional stress which results in more overtime. If we actually staffed up the Oakland Police to levels comparable to other similarly sized cities with similar crime rates, then you might not see such high overtime.

    Public safety and libraries are not equivalent in any fashion. I cannot call a librarian when someone is burglarizing my house or robbing me at gunpoint. I cannot call a librarian when I need an EMT because my neighbor had a heart attack. One of the most important priorities for local governments is maintaining public safety.

    Mayor Quan is trying to frame the public debate so that it pits library patrons, park patrons, senior citizens, supporters of the arts and those of us who want more police against each other–so that residents end up giving more money through a parcel tax, rather than contemplating true structural budget reforms and priority based budgeting.

    All things to all people…

  205. Naomi Schiff

    I disagree with some of your points, but I bet we agree that the overall message is that we should insist that BOTH mayor and council need to sit down and work hard to come up with a viable solution, and quit sniping at each other. Demonizing any of these people, no matter how fallible they may be, or how frustrated one is, is not going to help. All this Quan-bashing is beside the point. Let’s work on solutions, not waste energy on internal divisions. What I take from all the many discussions above is that negotiations with unions should continue and must result in some concessions, that pension reform is needed, that cutting positions, especially where they don’t seem effective, will be required. Where we disagree is on this cops vs everything else bit. I ithink we should agree that both public safety AND the other community functions of city govt are needed, and actually, many of the police personnel I’ve met would agree. For example, you won’t have a squatter problem in a derelict building if code enforcement is doing their job. You won’t have as many kids out on the street with nothing to do if you have effective parks and rec and library programs. These things are interconnected. Librarians don’t want to live without cops either. Police by themselves don’t make a safer city.

  206. J


    I do agree that a comprehensive budget solution will require great coordination, cooperation and accommodation among Mayor Quan and City Council.

    However, I do take exception to what appears to be your unwavering defense of Mayor Quan. The fact that someone disagrees with Mayor Quan’s approach is not demonizing Jean Quan as a person. It is criticizing her leadership, her management skill, her budgeting acumen and her political ideas and priorities. The reason she is the focal point is that she is the Mayor. She has chosen to take up this leadership role and she has the responsibility for putting forth a sound budget proposal. Citizens have a right and an obligation to criticize her ideas, her political philosophies and her approach if we do not like them or believe them to be economically unsustainable. That is part of a robust democratic process. Not sure why you have taken the role of unwavering defense of Mayor Quan.

    Regarding cops versus everything else–we got into this budget morass because Oakland City politicians and bureaucrats want to be all things to all people, have failed to clearly define core priorities, have spent its way into massive deficits all the while creating significant structural constraints to balancing the budget.

    I do not disagree that many government services are interconnected, and desirable and that some services may indirectly affect crime at the margins, but at some point you have to sit down, look at the reality of what’s left on the table, and make hard choices as to what are the most important priorities with the remaining resources.

    I for one believe the most fundamental and core public service that local government should provide is public safety. Without public safety society begins to break down in basic ways–this has already happened in some of our most dangerous and crime infested neighborhoods and it is spilling over into more stable neighborhoords. Hoodlums run rampant and terrorize innocent residents. While I appreciate the need for parks and libraries as safe havens for our underpriviledged youth, if you can’t make it to the park or library without getting shot, mugged, or beaten up, what use is the park or library?

    We will have to agree to disagree on the priority of services that a local government should provide.This is the core dillemma in Oakland–an inability to define core services and fund only those core services.

  207. Naomi Schiff

    I do disagree that only public safety positions should be funded. And, I don’t think it works. The variation in crime rate is not in sync with no. of police, for one thing, as you might expect if adding positions necessarily reduces crime. Policing is a critical part, but it is only part of having a safe city. It isn’t that we have an inability to define. It is indeed that we disagree on the definition. That is why we must discuss, gather, and compromise. Otherwise: stalemate.

  208. Patrick M. Mitchell

    @Naomi: do you think we should attempt to terminate Kid’s First or is that an interconnected program? Ultimately, I have to agree with J.; if public safety is at risk, all other programs are secondary. But I’m also cognizant of the fact that the police are too costly – the specter of older officers having to return to patrol duty may induce them to agree to a more reasonable level of total compensation.

  209. livegreen

    Naomi, But some of that is hard to define. For example “You won’t have as many kids out on the street with nothing to do if you have effective parks and rec and library programs.”

    “As many” is a very general statement. If we spend $20 million more, how many more kids will go to the library or Parks & Rec? (What do the stats say?).

    Also, for the kids still left, is it because we don’t have enough, or because the kids don’t want to go?

    Is it a symptom that Libraries, Parks & Rec, schools, OPD, etc. aren’t effective? Or is it a sign that something’s wrong with the kids who aren’t going?

    It seems like all these are measurable based on allocation of these services, jobs, and the customer base. Is the City willing to do a process, a Strategic Plan, like both OPD & OUSD have undertaken?

    As far as concessions, I agree with you all Departments must share. Where it starts to break down is when the Unions compare how each has given more than the other.

    Since their contracts are overlapping then they start comparing what each has given vs. the other over the last 1, 2, 3 contract cycles, and so forth back into history. Pretty soon it becomes like the local version of the Middle East, with no resolution or methodology in sight.

    The contracts should all be negotiated at the same time, cutting down on the chaos.

    And for god sake let’s be strategic about these things instead of who yells loudest at City Hall and pays the most at election time (union vs. union).

  210. J

    Let me elucidate this discussion on the importance of having enough police with a real life example that happened just this afternoon.

    I am watering my side yard (corner lot) when a neighbor comes up and says she thinks two people are breaking into the garage of our common neighbor. She asks if she should call 911. I say of course. In the meantime, the neighbor whose home is being broken into has confronted the man and woman who drop their bag. Out falls laptop, jewelry, credit cards, and a crow bar. Neighbor who confronted the thieves goes into house calls 911. Me and the other neighbor witness the pair leave. We each get into our cars and follow them. Meanwhile I have also called 911 and I am informing 911 of the criminals’ whereabouts. The criminals split up. The neighbor follows the female. I follow the male to his location where he holes up. Informs 911 of the location and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait and wait for 20 minutes before officers arrive and arrest him and detain his four other buddies.

    While, NCPC persistence was key in catching the criminals, not everyone is as persistent. And not everyone should be in the position of playing cops and robbers.

    Twenty minutes. One set of Officers came all the way from downtown Oakland to Shattuck and Alcatraz. The other Office came from 53rd and San Pablo. Twenty minutes to respond. Twenty minutes.

    So yeah, NCPCs help. But you need the police to respond.

    So Naomi, I resoundly disagree with your position. Show me any peer reviewed scientific study that says adding more police does nothing in terms of reducing crime or deterring crime. Show me one peer reviewed scientific study that says having libraries reduces crime. Policing is the conerstone and the biggest aspect of public safety. When there is little to no money, Police are my number one priority not parks or libraries. Police.

  211. Naomi Schiff

    What I am saying is that we differ in priorities, and if all of us hold to absolute positions, we won’t make much progress. Let’s do some creative thinking and make some progress on these budget issues. I don’t want to keep fighting with you. I’m a pretty strong supporter of the police, but I want to work towards a successful city in all regards, and don’t agree with a one-sided list of priorities.

  212. annoyed

    Wow. Someone said she thought a burglary was underway and she walked up to you to ask if she should call 911? How much time did that waste? Yeah, we need NCPCs to educate people that when they think they see a crime being committed, they should call the police. Burglaries don’t have as a high priority as a violent crime.

    We don’t have enough patrol cops, dispatchers, technicians, investigators, and traffic cops.

    I called in a drive by shooting recently that occurred a few feet from my house while I was in it. The 911 center was busy. The second time I called, I was put on hold. After I got through, it stii took too many minutes for the police to arrive. I could hear them coming from far away. It turns out someone was shot with non life threatening injuries and took themselves to the hospital. I guess they could have bled to death wating for help.

    I had nightmares for many nights.

    The realilty for those us who live in high crime areas is that there are real life and death consequences for what is decided about where to allocate city resources. You can decide that you’d rather have open libraries instead of safety for my neighbors and I. I don’t have to respect you for it.

  213. livegreen

    I would seriously like to know the backlog in Investigations. They used to release that. I don’t think they do now for both political and public fear reasons. I think Murder and Internal Affairs and crimes caught on camera/tracked are the only ones that get serious attention.

    30 Investigators for the entire City is just crazy. How many cases does that average to each investigator?

  214. len raphael

    Naomi, the fight we’re having online now is premature. With the likely cop concessions, attritioning the cops another 50 or so, some misc employee concessions, some furloughs, and a few more big diversions of RDA money, refing and PFRS, we should be able to get by at least another couple of years or so.

    The decisions we’re arguing will hit then when our general fund money will have to go to medical retiremnt benefits, Calpers increases, PFRS debt, with the balance left for very little other than reduced cop, fire, emergency maintenance.

    The pity is that even the so called mandatory 5 year budget doesn’t reflect those cash flows.

    So we’re arguing without the figures we need.

    I’m absolutely sure City Hall knows what the true five year projected budget looks like and it’s what Russo and Kernighan said as much is insolvency without draconian cuts.

    My point is that if we’re going to pitted against each other, we have the right to know the numbers.

  215. len raphael

    The current 2 year and 5 year budgets undoubtedly understate the decline in real estate tax revenue from the continuing real estate collapse. As the Feds remove the subsidy of FHA mortgaging, home prices in the parts of Oakland that havent crashed will crater.

    Commercial values are amazingly low now. A client of mine bought a 1950′s era commerical class B building in a low crime area for about one third of what it was sold for three years ago. Problem was no one could get financing for it.

    -len raphael, temescal

  216. Naomi Schiff

    I agree with you, Len. I wonder if the availability of inexpensive property will help to turn the economy around, as people can afford to rehab and put tenants into those properties. I remember that after the 89 quake, everything stalled in damaged downtown areas until the property values sank to a level at which people could afford to buy and reuse the structures. There were banks that didn’t want to foreclose, but really we needed them to go ahead and do it so that the inflated sales prices dropped and people could start over. It was the time of the savings and loan crisis, if you remember.

  217. J


    Perhaps you don’t understand where I am coming from. I value that government, in general, has provided society with many important and wonderful benefits that enrich our quality of life. But those benefits come from the largesse of taxpayers who themselves are suffering significantly under this economic crisis.

    At this current time in history, most government entities, be they local, state or federal are faced with enormous budget deficits and the inability to provide many of the benefits they have historically provided. During times when money is flush, I am willing to support more than public safety with our tax dollars. However, when the piggy bank is empty and our local government has squandered, misspent, and has otherwise been fiscally imprudent, my number one priority is not giving them more money through yet another parcel tax to keep libraries and parks open and to subsidize other social programs, but is to ensure the remaining funds are prioritized and efficiently spent to provide for public safety.

    My position may appear to you to be absolute and one sided because I have expressed a high priority and a high intensity of preference for public safety. I do that because I want to live in a peaceful and safe community. I don’t want to be burglarized, mugged, robbed, killed, carjacked, assaulted, or otherwise be the victim of some senseless crime. I do not want to become one of the statistics that adds up to Oakland being one of the most violent crime ridden communities in the country. I do not find that to enrich my quality of life.

    I do find it wishful thinking that the “bad guys” will somehow act better and be socially responsible citizens if we just give them enough after school programs, enough social programs, enough parks, enough libraries, enough jobs programs, enough educational programs, enough food subsidies, enough rent subsidies, enough community support, enough love and provide enough social pressure to erase all forms of racism and bias. Never gonna happen. Not in our lifetime.

    So, perhaps we could start setting the bar a little higher for our fellow citizens–stop treating them like victims, stop enabling them to be victims, and expect them to take responsibility for their life and their actions. Sound harsh. Not really. It is what every member of society owes each other–individual responsibility.

  218. Naomi Schiff

    California’s track record is that we have incarcerated more people than most other countries or states, and it doesn’t work. What we are doing is sending people to jail to learn how to be more effective criminals, instead of building healthier lives in the first place. Individual responsibility has to be developed from the ground up. You can’t just impose it by arresting people, sorry.

  219. len raphael

    Naomi, i don’t hold any illusions that more cops will deter people from criminal behavior. All i expect it to achieve is to make it unpleasant enough here so that they do it elsewhere.

    Even if i thought that more efficient social services and programs could reduce crime, and sometimes/to some extent I do believe that, there is no way that Oakland ever had or will ever have the tax revenue base to make a dent in those problems, other than doing better at schooling.

    what seems to be happening faster here is that the bad guys have figured out that there are remarkably few cops per square mile. they are now hitting businessess and residences with alarm systems and dogs and neighborhood watch groups.

    wont take much of that happening in the upscale neighborhoods for residents to band together to pay for patrols, armed response etc.

    that could free up cops for the rest of oakland, or just drive the bad guys to the neighborhoods which can’t afford to pay for patrol services.

  220. len raphael

    what are the ages of the current CC members? Historically, at what age do CC retire voluntarily?

    I’m wondering out loud whether most of the current CC just have to kludge the city finances enough to get thru the next 3 or 4 years and they’re out of here.

    I realize CC actually do want to help residents and the City, but if they also know the situation is hopeless without a Federal bailout of some kind, I could see them justifying smoke and mirrors for as long as possible, then exiting stage right if the Feds dont rescue cities like ours.

  221. J


    Careful what you argue and how you argue it. California certainly has a very high prison population. There is no arguing that, however we are the most populous state.

    But like many other states California’s overall crime rates have fallen since the the 1990′s. See http://oag.ca.gov/crime

    Can you scientifically conclude that locking up criminals does nothing for the crime rate? One has to wonder why Oakland’s crime rates haven’t fallen comparable to the rest of state?

  222. Ravi

    Patrick M: “…Oakland’s touchy-feely policies actually enable crime?”

    I think it’s just the opposite Patrick. City Hall is anything but touchy-feely.

    It’s all pretty hard-nosed divide-and-conquer politics with a liberal or progressive gloss. CC and Mayor are much less concerned with solving real problems than with looking good and staying in office.

    An abundance of last-minute, panic-mode decision making, with very little reflection on long-term policy and large-scale civic priorities. It’s been a recipe for disaster in the past and the real big crunch is coming on like a locomotive.

    Crime in Oakland is a very complex problem. Which needs a great deal of additional information, reflection, rational policymaking and flexibility. There seems to be no interest in City Hall in taking a long, hard look at crime.

    All sorts of policy initiatives are enacted without any built-in means for feedback and modification. The Mayor and City Administrator don’t (and haven’t) been capable of managing nearly anything adequately.

    I would suggest that Oakland needs to have a crime summit of some sort to get all the problems, as much information as possible, and all the possible approaches out on the table for all to see.

    As likely as a snowball in hell.

  223. J

    Perhaps we should first start with the simple, yet politically tenuous, task of defining who actually commits crime in Oakland and why. The who and why are important because it would allow us to more efficiently and effectively target resources, enforcement, and prevention services in a strategic fashion.

    However, I don’t think Oakland as a community is really ready to have an honest and open dialogue on this subject.

  224. Ravi

    “Perhaps we should first start with the simple, yet politically tenuous, task of defining who actually commits crime in Oakland and why.”

    Absolutely–it’s something that cries to be done. But the will to do it must be created. As with a well-organized citywide conference with many workshops devoted to exploring the very question.

  225. livegreen

    Naomi, We’ve also tried under-policing and social programs, and it also doesn’t work.

    If you don’t want to incarcerate people, you need to be a lot more specific on what you’re proposing. Are you suggesting not arresting people for murder, assault and rape? So what would you do?

    I would agree that 3 strikes is overly broad. But so is saying we should stop incarcerating people.

    We need a combination, but right now we have less Police than anybody recommends. This debate was finished a long time ago all over the East Coast and in L.A. It is only alive in Oakland.

  226. livegreen

    So what are you suggesting Naomi? And if you’re not suggesting diverting the violent criminals, who practically are you talking about diverting and how?

    Because we already have tons of alternatives to prison too, and they’re not working either.

    Really, it comes down to a combination of not enough police, not enough jobs, and families that have fallen apart and aren’t supervising or educating their children.

    This is extremely complex, but reducing crime will help local economics and jobs, and that will further help families and crime. Building the Middle Class will help pay for the programs that help everyone.

    But we have to start by listening to the professionals who are experts, instead of just letting this exchange of opinions rule policy (which it is, as this debate carries to city council policy).

    Like Tony Smith at OUSD, Anthony Batts has a Masters or Doctorate in his area of expertise. Rely on him, and implement his policy…

  227. Ravi

    I think Naomi has confused two very different matters. One is the violent crime problem in Oakland which has many causes and needs a variety of remedies, many of which have nothing to do with the justice system and all of which have to do with local history, social problems and institutionalized racism.

    The second is the high rate of incarceration in California and elsewhere in the U.S. This is a very different complex of problems, but is a direct consequence of the War on Drugs.

    Very different matters. Not to be confused.

  228. Max Allstadt

    All of what Ravi said is correct. But it’s only truly correct if you add that though many of the remedies needed for violent crime have nothing to do with the justice system, there are also many much needed remedies that do involve the justice system.

    No more bi-polar politics, please.

  229. len raphael

    Ravi, trying to picture how citywide seminars would reach any different result or more of a consensus than we have now.

    also how they’d be moderated/led

    lord knows Dellums was a big fan of blue ribbon commissions and working groups. (Steve L, did Dellums have one on crime?)

    might result in more of push toward the policing side of the axis of approaching then we have now.

    my hunch is that if activists of all stripes did not dominate such community meetings, majority of oakland flatlands residents would want more cops but only if their was “community policing” and civilian review.

    the hills would mostly want more cops in their areas.

    But activists being activists would dominate.

    How about restarting those community meetings about budget priorities. Crime will come in naturally.

    I dont trust some of the CC members and the Mayor to provide full disclosure at those meetings. But have to try them again and push all of us to ask hard questions.

  230. J

    Like I said, Oakland residents of all stripes are so unwilling to address the most basic of questions: Who commits crimes in Oakland and why?

    I find it absolutely fascinating that there is so much disinterest in such a basic question.

    Naomi, Max, Len, Ravi, Livegreen, Patrick, Annoyed, Dax, Annalee. Anyone?

    Like I said, Oakland is not ready or interested in really figuring out this problem of crime. Skirt around the margins, complain, get mugged, but not really discuss the who and the why and the how to strategically target crime. Sounds a lot like our dear Mayor and our City Council.

    Why are Oaklander’s so afraid to really engage on this issue?

  231. Ravi

    “Ravi, trying to picture how citywide seminars would reach any different result or more of a consensus than we have now.
    also how they’d be moderated/led”

    Don’t know how this might occur. But there’s no consensus now, mostly acrimony. Important community organizations in violence-afflicted areas of Oakland can’t come up with a consensus on how to proceed on crime. I wouldn’t want this to be any sort of “blue-ribbon” thing, but I would not be averse to a major foundation-supported effort with some academic (U.C. Berkeley, Mills, Holy Names, et al) sponsors and participants as well as Church-based community organizations as sponsors.

    We’ve got to start somewhere, to try to come up with a new approach. It couldn’t be more of a mess than it is now.

    Keep Oakland City Hall completely out of it because City Hall works on the principle of exploitation–divide and conquer.

    “Why are Oaklander’s so afraid to really engage on this issue?”

    Crime issues are exceedingly complex and ideological approaches (politically-correct) are useless.

    On the other hand, asking the basic questions is the vital first step: how many families (and children, especially young boys) are at risk? 1000 families? What needs to be done with each of these families; how much of this is amenable to adult volunteers mentoring kids?

    How much does Oakland’s city-supported marijuana culture contribute to crime?

    Where do all the guns on Oakland’s streets come from and how can we intervene usefully (the usual gun-control legislation just doesn’t work)?

    And so on.

  232. Ravi

    And, yes, of course, the polarizations in Oakland such as cops vs libraries are the result of ignorance and are enormously destructive.

  233. J


    I came across an interesting article called the Supply and Demand for Juvenile Guns in Oakland: Results of Oakland Gun Tracing Study dating from 2000.

    Here are some of the findings.

    OPD recovered a total of 2,963 in 1998 and 1999 from suspects fo all ages; 210 were linked to juveniles. Of the 132 guns physically recovered from juveniles less than 4% were reported as lost or stolen. The market supplying Oakland youth with firearms appears to be a local problem of undocumented, street-level transactions between individuals. Straw purchasers buy guns legally and then sell them illegally to juveniles and felons. Apparently 60% of the guns were legally purchased in the SF Bay Area with Trader Sports in San Leandro the most significant contributor.

    Out of all 263 juvenile suspects and victims: 70% of the suspects and 43% of the victims were African American males; 55% of juvenile gun victims were attacked by suspects of their own race; 32% had a minimum of 5 interactions with probation; and 78% of those assessed did not reside with both biological parents (compared to 30% nationwide).

    While this data comes from 1998-2000, I would imagine that the results for 2010-2011 would be similar.

    So, from an intervetion/prevention/enforcement perspective, knowing the who is very important when targeting solutions.

  234. len raphael

    am not impressed by the contribution of local faith based organizations to the crime solution efforts. way too much hand wringing and asking for city handouts for programs.


  235. Ravi

    J–that is good information and I do recall some of the controversy about the gun shop in San Leandro. Knowing the who and how lets us work to develop interventions that have a chance of working, rather than using well-intended but essentially unproductive methods like traditional “gun control.”

    Len–point taken, but I would not paint the local faith-based orgs with too broad a brush. A large group of pastors made a poignant plea to the CC Public Safety Committee last fall for help in dealing with violence. These pastors were not looking for handouts–they were looking for problem-solving. Of course the Public Safety Committee took note and did nothing.

  236. len raphael

    ravi, there are differences between big and smaller churches here. with the bigger ones having more of a stake in the status quo; and more access to the City grants.

  237. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Who commits crimes? If it was that easy to determine, we could just round those people up and we’d be done. My guess is that the majority of crimes (of the type we see in Oakland) are due to several factors: economic circumstance, educational background and cultural norms primary amongst them. We can throw money at people – but does that work? I think it creates a dependent class of people. We can toss more money at the school system – but does that work? Nothing can replace the desire to learn (or parental supervision). Can we change a “culture”? No – and if we tried we’d be called racist. That’s why we’re left with one tool that is effective and specifically targets and negatively effects the “bad guys”: cops.

    The War on Drugs largely created this disadvantaged class and the Great Society programs largely perpetuate it. By making drugs and bad decisions profitable, we’ve created a society where police officers can demand – and receive – nearly $200,000k per year in total compensation. Because they know they’re the only effective game in town.

  238. annoyed

    Good grief. The gang injunctions were exactly intended to target the folks who commit the crime. But no, the naysayers insisted it was anti people of color, anti youth, all about profiling, etc. According to what I hear through my NCPC, at least one of the bangers on the Fruitvale list has recently been arrested for something else.

    I have nothing new to say about this. But if you want to hear it again, here it is.

    The voters in Oakland don’t want to deal with crime. Never have. When the man was shot to death in Rockridge while pointing a toy gun at the police last winter, the residents were upset that the police shot him. They expected the cops to be able to divine when a gun is real and when it isn’t. The anti cop attitudes are not just in the flatlands.

    The problem in Oakland isn’t that we don’t know who commits the crime, the problem has ALWAYS been that there is no political will to aggressively combat crime. Every city in the USA that made a big dent in crime rolled up its sleeves and cracked down on crime by investing in community policing, targeted gang work, hiring more cops, a clear intolerance for mindless violence, etc. Numerous tools are required. It worked in NYC, in LA, it worked in East Palo Alto, it seems to be working in Richmond, it’s been working in Newark,, NJ it worked for a while in Boston, etc. There is no political will to do this in Oakland. Even when Oakland wasn’t broke.

    It’s true that law enforcement is only part of the equation and that we can’t arrest our way out of crime. But the streets have to be made safe and that should be the priority while other strategies are pursued.

    I find it really strange that people are calling for workshops and moderators when you have NCPCs that can perform that very function. They can be a source of a lot information and the community gets to shape their NCPC to their specific needs. The NCPCs can actually teach you things. What is needed is a structure to knit together the NCPCs for information sharing and organizing. Oakland has the ability to reduce crime but residents are going to have to do some work and get their hands dirty. I think that is the problem right there because residents don’t really want to get involved.

  239. len raphael

    We should embrace Quan and PUEBLO’s OPD civilianization proposal but only if we can co-opt it so that in isn’t funded by cutting total number of cops.

    Done right, it would free up cops to do real cop work and could increase OPD community trust.

    Quan will line up grants to fund for say 15 civilian investigators at 100k cost for a year and announce that 15 @ 200k/year cops can be shifted off Internal Affairs to the street.

    A year from now when the grant money runs out, she’ll lay off 8 cops to get the money to continue funding the civiilian investigators and claim that she put more cops back on the streets than there were a before.

    Quan could win that checkers game against a fractured fractious CC.

    -len raphael, temescal

  240. Ravi

    The NCPCs are great and I’ve been attending the meetings in my neighborhood for years. But NCPCs are not policy-development organizations, and good policy is what is lacking in Oakland. I hear that NCPCs are on the chopping block in the secret budget work that is going on in the two CC cliques at the present moment. This would be a great loss, but to eliminate NCPCs and do some token civilianizing of police complaint intake is a likely outcome of whatever eventually comes from the Mayor and the CC. In other words, a tiny step forward and several very big steps backward.

  241. Ravi

    “A year from now when the grant money runs out, she’ll lay off 8 cops to get the money to continue funding the civiilian investigators and claim that she put more cops back on the streets than there were a before.”

    There are equally insidious plans afoot in the CC, as I understand. F’rinstance take the budgeted (and fictitious) $2 million for a police academy slated for 2012 and use it to hire the civilian complaint investigators. This “puts more cops on the street.” No academy necessary.

    Either way, it’s fairy-tale planning. Cops will continue to disappear from Oakland, crime will continue to climb and we’ll be looking back on the present as the good old days.

  242. livegreen

    It would be interesting to get an update on how many Investigators Oakland now has (for crimes against civilians) and what the backlog is in different categories, especially violent crimes?

  243. annoyed

    Neighborood Services might be on the chopping block, and that is whole other story. But most NCPCs will continue to meet in some form and try to work with OPD to insure that PSOs or beat officers can attend some meetings. I am quite confident that my group will continue to meet. We don’t have good support from Neighborhood Services now so we will have to find a way to coordinate with the police without them if they are eliminated. I’m not so sure this is a bad thing. It’s a badly managed group with about two NSCs that are truly effective and pro active. I don’t want to see anyone lose their job but this unit is a mess.

  244. annoyed

    As for NCPCs not being policy driven: Good grief again. All you have to do is network with others at various NCPCs who have an interest in policy and you have a public safety policy group. The problem is that many people who have tried this have been very selective about who they invite to participate and end up preaching to the choir. I guarantee you that when the amount of work is laid, most people will drop out because they won’t want to do the work.

    The other problem is that some people look at this as a stepping stone for future political aspirations. I miss the 1990′s when people got together around public safety issues for the primary purpose of making the streets safer. Today, everyone has an agenda.

  245. Ravi

    I’d be grieving too if I had flunked my high school civics class. Two of three branches of gov’t are directly responsible for policy. Legislative, which is Oakland’s CC. CC articulates policy (law, f’rinstance for community policing, PSOs, NCPCs, etc.) and allocates resources (money). Admin (Mayor and those who report to him, her or it) which implements policy.

    NCPCs don’t make policy. In fact NCPCs are administrative. Our representatives in the CC wrote laws mandating NCPCs. We actually voted on those laws (for example Measure Y). In this democracy we have laws written at our behest so that gummint puts into play a network of resources (like NSCs and PSOs) which assure the ongoing function of community policing efforts. So that it’s not just an arrangement of convenience for neighbors who come and go in search of new hobbies.

    Go the the library, annoyance, and subdue your grief by reading a civics textbook. Or the Oakland City Charter. Or the California Civil Code. Or the U.S. Constitution.

    Grieve not–learn!

  246. livegreen

    If the NSCs are ineffective it’s because they are underfunded. Some of them have 10 to 12 neighborhoods in a group, each with different situations. So naturally they must gravitate towards those that are the most active &/or have the biggest problems (most to do).

    I don’t deny that some might be ineffective, but that doesn’t negate their necessity or the cause of the system as a whole.

    There’s also been some word about putting them under Chief Batts, with the understanding that OPD continue them. Now their run out of the Office of the City Administrator. So they essentially have 2 bosses.

    Another reason they might be less effective?

  247. Naomi Schiff

    The NSCs keep moving around. This would not be the first time. I’d like to put in a word for the really excellent Hoang Banh, who has jumpstarted neighborhood groups, helped them to organize, and provided a great deal of information and help. A little administrative and liaison support is a wonderful thing for a neighborhood safety group, and improves effectiveness. i believe the NCPC idea is a good way to leverage resources and give the police some anchor contacts in neighborhoods.

  248. Scott Law

    AB 506

    For those who have not heard…

    News in from our Cal State Legislature
    The Democrats passed AB 506, which essentially eviscerates City Bankruptcy
    proceedings in Calif by making applications pass through public employee unions. If this
    goes through senate and Gov Brown, we can forget the “nuclear option” to adjust employee pensions. Note the opposition from the league of Calif cities, not exactly a tea party/Republican group


  249. len raphael

    Scott, when that vote was taken in early June, I didn’t notice any mention in the main sections of the trib or the chron. Was it there and i missed it, or would you have to read the Sac Bee or muni bond newsletter to have found out?

    What are the odds of it passing the Senate?

    The Firefighter’s group in CA seems to be more sophisticated or maybe subtle than say the Prison Guards.

    They’re not going to rely on the kindness of Federal bankruptcy judges to protect their contracts.

  250. annoyed

    Hey Ravi: Why don’t you work on that reading and comprehension thing because what you said does not reflect my comments.

  251. Ravi

    Annoyance sez:
    “As for NCPCs not being policy driven: Good grief again. All you have to do is network with others at various NCPCs who have an interest in policy and you have a public safety policy group.”

    I will try to ‘splain again for you. Policy is not made at NCPC level, but at the City Council level. That is where people who are interested in public safety need to spend their political and rational energy.

    CC-developed policy (and according law) is thus applied citywide, not just in one neighborhood. To solve its problems, Oakland needs to work as a city, not as isolated groups of citizens, some of whom are good at what they do and some of whom aren’t. Citywide policies, incorporated into law, provide a template for ongoing, consistent, holistic efforts. At least theoretically.

  252. annoyed

    Ravi: Residents of Oakland influence policy in this city all the time. You can do it through your NCPC when you organize people to speak out about the gang injuntion. Just one example. Or organize around getting the council to uphold it’s own policy on the deemed approved ordinance.

    You do realize that an ordinance like the deemed approved grew out of neighbhorhood action, don’t you? We were talking about gang injunctions in my NCPC a decade ago.

    You would have to be suffering from a terminal case of politically naivete not to understand that lobbyists and other interested stakeholders influence publlic policy every day. Seriously, as much a piece of garbage as it is, where do you think Measure Y came from?

    If you were a person who was actually doing something about public safety instead of runnning your mouth online, you would already know this. I am just so out of patience with people who in the middle of a public safety crisis decide to be all big and bad from behind their computer. Go out do something.

  253. livegreen

    At the G.I. debate Pat K. specifically mtd at many neighborhood and community meetings citizens are asking for more Police. I believe she was at least in part referring to NCPC mtgs.

  254. livegreen

    How’s the Mayor-City Council relationship? I notice the Mayor has been blaming the Council for putting off the budget decision, and the Council has been blaming the Mayor for giving budget “options” not a real budget. Which is true?

    Also, if the Council is right (that it’s not a real budget) why does much of the news media keep calling it a budget (or a budget plan)?

  255. Ravi

    “If you were a person who was actually doing something about public safety instead of runnning your mouth online, you would already know this. I am just so out of patience with people who in the middle of a public safety crisis decide to be all big and bad from behind their computer. Go out do something.”

    Annoyance, you know as little about me as you do about democracy. I am indeed deeply involved with several community groups working on public safety and other matters. The fact that Oakland doesn’t move forward has a lot to do with those people like yourself who don’t quite get democracy.

  256. Naomi Schiff

    Posting here under pseudonyms makes it easier to be uncivil, to make assumptions without knowing facts, and to skip matching words with deeds. As often as I may disagree with Len R., we can be cordial and friendly in our relationship; I wonder whether part of that is in not hiding from each other, and in owning our roles in the community. Just a thought.