Three budgets for Oakland

I was going to wait until tomorrow when I had more time to post about the budget, but then I was kind of surprised not to see anyone commenting about it here, so I just wanted to make sure you are all aware that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has released her proposed budget for the City Council.

Well, proposed budgets. The Mayor has provided the Council with three budgets, which they will receive a report from the City Administration about and discuss on this coming Thursday, May 5th.

Yes, I think it is weird, too.

The first budget (PDF) shows what would happen if the City was not able to get any concessions from the employees and also not get a new parcel tax.

It includes such draconian measures as cutting the library down to only four locations closing recreation centers and pools, eliminating cultural arts grants and the film office, and closing four fire stations. I don’t really know what the point of putting out this one was, other than to make people feel bad for the city. It seems completely improbable that no concessions whatsoever from the employees will be agreed upon, so this just seems like a boo-hoo poor us type thing.

The second budget (PDF) represents what would happen if we got employee contributions but no parcel tax. It keeps libraries and fire stations open, closes no rec centers but leases them to the Housing Authority instead, closes Live Oak Pool during the summer, and cuts but keeps the film office and arts grants.

This seems to me like the most likely scenario to happen, so I kind of wish the Mayor had focused on presenting different variations on this depending on the degree of concessions rather than one budget based on a likely scenario and two based on unlikely ones.

The third budget (PDF) represents a scenario where we have both employee contributions and a parcel tax. We would have 10 more police officers and hold two police academies, not close the pool or the library or senior centers, open the East Oakland Sports center, not cuts to park maintenance or arts or outside agencies.

Obviously we’re supposed to want this one. I find this whole exercise really frustrating. Instead of focusing on the budget, the Mayor appears to be focusing on selling her parcel tax. They passed out this little comparison of the three options (PDF) and this pamphlet outlining the basics of the budget process (PDF), both of which are helpful things to have, but there was no focus (or even information, really) about the specifics of how the budget was balanced under each scenario.

The worksheets make the third scenario (the one with the tax) seem so rosy — you would look at that and think nothing would change. But it does change some things. For example, the Library, Parks & Rec, and Human Services would all be consolidated into one agency (an umbrella Life Enrichment Agency, something we used to have only a few years ago and got rid of). The number of meetings televised by KTOP will be reduced to only City Council, Port Commission, and Planning Commission. Public Ethics and Equal Access offices are reduced. It also, like all the scenarios, relies on the sale of the Kaiser Convention Center to keep us afloat and reduces elected offices (including City Auditor and City Attorney) by 15%. None of the budgets address the PFRS problem.

Before the briefing started, the Mayor was talking about how they had been up all night working to get it done, and how she went home at 5 AM and this whole story about this harried process, and all I could think was that while I’m glad to hear they worked hard on the budget, maybe it wouldn’t have taken so long if they had made only one in the first place.

30 thoughts on “Three budgets for Oakland

  1. Dax

    From the Tribune

    “The midlevel budget plan assumes additional income derived by pension contributions of 10 percent to 15 percent from all employees”

    Am I to read this as saying that all those employees paying 8% would then be paying 10% or 15%?
    Would the city then be paying less in the “employer” share?

    I can’t download the PDF now.
    Is there any place in the middle budget for reductions in salary such as the 10% San Jose is getting from all their employees?

    A 10% cut in pay saves far more than having employees, already paying 8% pension contribution, boosting it to 10%.

    BTW, if pay is cut 10% instead of having the employees pay more into pensions, the city saves even more because the employer share of of the pension for CalPERS is 17% on top of that, thus an extra 1.7% saved.
    Or for police 28 to 29 percent giving a extra approx 3% savings on top of the 10%.

  2. Dax

    Actually I need to change some employer contribution numbers above, but the idea remains the same.

    I think, (not sure) the Oakland city contribution rates might be 19.5% for miscellaneous employees and 27.8 for safety employees.

    From a thread last year I see the city paid a total of about 75 million dollars.
    Thus, via the concept, if you cut salaries by 10%, you could also save about 7.5 million on pension contributions unless that was addressed in some other way in the deal.

    These CalPERS rates change yearly I believe.

    Oakland city employee compensation went to excess in the past decade. A 10% cut would only begin to bring it back into alignment with where it would have been had they just kept pace with the cost of living.

  3. CitizenX

    Three of the four fire stations marked for closure sit in the Wildfire Assessment District. I can’t believe that Quan, who was such a backer of the assessment, has proposed that the stations that serve the assessed properties be shuttered. Pay more for less service. Shades of Measure Y.

  4. Naomi Schiff

    i’m not sure of this but somewhere I saw a reference to “winter closure” of fire stations. Is that what is planned? Seems like summer/fall fire staffing is a high priority.

  5. Allan

    Quan also was a major supporter of Measure Q, now she wants to completely de-fund libraries and close down 14 of them!

    The Library is taking an vastly disproportional share of cuts considering it only gets 2% of the General Fund.

    I’ve also have never seen or heard of an executive at any level, local, State or Federal proposing 3 different Budgets, she is also engaging in negotiations through the budget process instead of sitting down with Unions at the table and asking for concessions.

    Dax- Yes the City owes the “employer” share of the contribution, unless they are trying to pass onto the workers too, who by the way haven’t had a COLA in 3 years and have taken 12 furlough days each in the last budget cycle. OPD has the most generous pensions and still do not pay a single penny of their “Employee” share to retire at 50 with 3%

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    Hey folks –

    I had hoped to get a more detailed post about the budgets up this afternoon, but at this point, I don’t think it’s going to happen. (It’s such a pretty day! I couldn’t resist enjoying the sun this morning.) I’ll have something up tomorrow for sure.

    In the meantime, this document may be helpful in sorting out the differences in the three scenarios and the specifics of the proposed cuts.

    It shows side by side the “significant changes” listed in each of the three scenarios by department.

    For the Fire Department, there is no mention of seasonal station closures, but under all scenarios is the item “Change Vegetation Management group to Permanent Part Time (6.0 FTE Fire Suppression District Inspectors reduced to 3.0 FTE); the program will be reduced from year round to 6 months.”

    Under Scenario A, Fire Stations 7, 25, 28, and 29 would be closed. There are no fire station closures listed under Scenarios B or C.

  7. Patrick M. Mitchell

    This “Mandatory Leave Without Pay” is nonsense. It’s an attempt to deal with structural problems using a short-term fix. For the police officers alone, 15 days per 640 budgeted officers is the equivalent of laying off 26.3 officers – but we’re still paying their benefits and that time still counts for pension accrual. Why not just lay them off and save ALL of that money? Same with every other department. We would have more butts in seats on a daily basis relative to having everyone take 15 days of “Mandatory Leave Without Pay”.

  8. Oakie

    I would suggest you look at what has happened in San Jose. I really wish Oakland had competent leadership like they have under the no-drama Mayor Reed.

    Their police union has given back a nice chunk in compensation plus bigger contribution to their pension plans in order to reduce (but not eliminate) layoffs among the cops. It appears their other city unions will be giving back in comparable amounts as a result.

    Here in Oakland, otoh, the mayor insists that there be cutbacks but no greater than what will be increased taxation on the citizens of Oakland.

    As if we aren’t already overtaxed abusively.

    This ignores the fact that Oakland’s city employees are paid 20% higher than the Bay Area averages (which is considerably higher than the State of California averages, which is considerably higher than national averages).

    So why isn’t the mayor STARTING OUT by demanding that the city’s compensation be NO HIGHER than the average for the Bay Area????

    That ALONE would reduce the cost to the city a huge amount of money–without a penny more in additional tax burden on the overtaxed people of Oakland.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

  9. len raphael

    Question is why City is unwilling to negotiate a contract with the cops where the cops make larger than 15% concessions in return for for ironclad (short o6f chapt 9) assurance of no layoffs and staffing levels, combined with two tier pay structure.

    I assume it’s because City knows it’s financial situation will get much worse before it gets better and wants the flexibility to cut cop staffing below 600; and/or it’s betting that as the neighboring police depts reduce their forces and pay, oakland cops will have no choice but to accept greatly reduced pay and very low staffing levels.

    Despite a few recent statements to the contrary, Quan has been very straightforward in stating that cop staffing levels is a lower priority than youth recreation and anti violence programming.

    -len raphael, temescal

  10. len raphael

    Is the rumor true that the condition of Russo’s hiring by Alameda was that he file an injunction against any Oakland male under the age of 80 setting foot on the Island?

    Seriously, it’s depressing that he’s leaving the ship, but can’t blame him. Quan could make his life hell for next four years especially if she keeps her voter approval levels.

    After he leaves, how is his temporary successor chosen?

    -len raphael

  11. Max Allstadt

    I believe that the highest ranking non-elected City Attorney becomes Acting City Attorney until the council votes for an interim City Attorney, or until we have a special election to fill the post.

    I actually think the Charter should be changed so that it’s always a special election, and the council and Mayor have no authority to replace the City Auditor or the City Attorney. Those posts need to be independent, and beholden to the people, not to other branches of government.

  12. V Smoothe

    Here’s the relevant section of the City Charter:

    Section 401(4). Vacancy, Filling of. Upon the declaration of vacancy in the Office of the City Attorney, the Office of the City Attorney shall be filled by appointment by the majority vote of the members of the Council; provided, that if the Council shall fail to fill a vacancy by appointment within sixty days after such office shall become vacant, the City Council shall cause an election to be held to fill such vacancy pursuant to the manner and method as provided for in Article II, Section 205 of the Charter. An appointee or the person elected to the Office of City Attorney for the balance of an unexpired term shall hold office until the next general election for the Office of the City Attorney.

  13. Livegreen

    So does the Mayor try to get Dan Siegel appointed? Or use it as another reason for a special election, and combine with a tax measure? No lose situation.

    I wonder if the Chief and IDLF feel let down?

  14. V Smoothe

    It is extremely improbable that Dan Siegel would become City Attorney. Whether or not there are enough votes on the Council to appoint anyone City Attorney is unclear, but if an appointment were made, it would most likely be either District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner or Chief Assistant City Attorney Barbara Parker.

  15. Max Allstadt

    If Doug wanted that headache, I’m sure the media would already know about it by now.

    Brunner and Parker have both made it known that they’re interested in the job. Based on an intuitive guessing game of individual loyalties and enmities on the council, I can’t count five solid votes for either of them, so it comes down to a lobbying contest. Total toss up, with a possibility of a stalemate.

    As for Siegel, c’mon, the guy has been generating negative press for helping the Mayor violate the charter. The council won’t vote for him because he would strongly empower the Mayor to do whatever the hell she wanted in the legal realm, and that would weaken them dramatically.

    And if it comes to a special election, he’d be running against his own record: the guy went out of his way to defend the vandals who smashed up downtown in reaction to the Oscar Grant verdict. Good luck living that down.

    Personally, I think Parker is a good choice because she’s not a professional politician, which means that in 2012 when we have a general election for the City Attorney, her incumbency advantage would be tempered by the fact that she’s never run in an election before. She’s totally qualified, and if she does a good job in the post, she’ll earn some points, but it would still be a competitive election, which I see as inherently good.

    Brunner is a seasoned politician, if she talks the council into confirming her, she’ll have a tremendous edge in 2012, and we can expect to see her in office for a long time. Also, if the council confirms her, they create the expense of a special election in District 1. Brunner is currently Dan Siegel’s employee, which makes the Quan-Siegel-Brunner relationship borderline incomprehensible and unpredictable, even messier, potentially, that the Quan-Siegel-Russo conundrum.

    Further, Brunner’s recent attempts to dramatically weaken the lobbyist registration ordinance are troubling from someone who wants to be City Attorney. My understanding is that in terms of transparency, both Brunner and Brooks believe that their meeting calendars are not public records. John Russo believes that they are public records.

    No idea what Parker’s position is, but you better believe that it’s essential to ask all possible candidates for this job to enumerate what their policies will be regarding transparency, maintaining it, and hopefully expanding it.

  16. len raphael

    Re Brunner’s employment w Siegel/Yee. Other than a possible legal services contract to the law firm a while back, i haven’t noticed any hint of correlation between Brunner’s positions and Seigel’s.

    I don’t see her as some kind of proxy for Siegel. I’m sure some of you watched more closely than I in council votes, but was Brunner ever considered a consistent allie of Quan’s? Certainly not in the last Mayoral election.

    -len raphael, temescal

  17. Max Allstadt

    I don’t see Brunner as a proxy for Siegel either.

    I was talking about a potential triangular relationship between Quan as Mayor, Siegel as Mayor’s de facto Attorney, and Brunner as City Attorney. I believe I referred to it not as sinister in anyway, just highly unpredictable and hard to comprehend. It’s just weird. Aside from the fact that Siegel’s role is still a charter violation, I can’t make a judgement on whether it’s good or bad. It’s just weird.

  18. Max Allstadt

    Also, this is bit from Matier and Ross today is flat out astounding:

    Legal muscle: A closed-door Oakland City Council session has been set for Tuesday to discuss possible legal sanctions against Mayor Jean Quan’s personal lawyer and adviser, Dan Siegel.

    At issue: whether Siegel, an attorney in private practice with no official portfolio at City Hall, overstepped his authority when he recently took part in a meeting called by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson to discuss the city’s long-running police consent decree.

    “If accurate, not only is it not acceptable, but it’s illegal,” fumed Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who reportedly exchanged sharp words with Quan last week after learning about Siegel’s presence at the April 12 meeting.

    The issue is especially sensitive to the cops, given Siegel’s vocal criticisms of the department’s handling of everything from street protests to gang injunctions.

    “I went to the meeting to look out for the mayor’s interest,” Siegel said.

  19. len raphael

    Max, wierd yup. But no more stranged/strained than a lot of the incestuous stuff in our big little city government. Would assume that if JB got the city attorney position, she would quit Siegel law firm. (Wouldn’t she have to by law?)

    -len raphael, temescal

  20. Max Allstadt

    Of course she’d quit. Not sure if she’s required too by law, but I’m sure she would.

    On the other hand, right now, does she have to recuse herself from the closed session discussion about legal action against Siegel? Probably. Does she want to be in that position? Doubtful.

    The best solution to this weirdness is to just remove Siegel from City Hall. I wonder what sort of legal action the council was contemplating. A Dan injunction?

  21. Jenn

    I’ve started to hear mutterings that if Brunner gets the City Attorney appointment, people will start circulating petitions to refer the appointment to the ballot — wouldn’t really be a recall since she wouldn’t be elected. With the Siegel mess, ABC donations/security contract debacle and Sunshine issues, some are thinking she’s not the best choice for City Attorney.

  22. len raphael

    Jenn, what a waste of energy and money such a petition would be when there are crucial charter amendments needed to fix the structural fiscal situation.

  23. Jenn

    Well, let’s hope the Council makes a good appointment to the position, not a controversial one! Who else is in the mix besides Brunner and Parker?

  24. Barry K

    Breaking News from East Bay News Service-
    Quan Gives Donor $200 Million No-Bid Deal

    The mayor’s office confirmed May 4 that Waste Management of Alameda County, which holds the exclusive franchise for garbage service in the city of Oakland, is on the list of previously undisclosed corporate donors to the $80,000 pot of money that Mayor Jean Quan tapped to fund celebrations during her first week in office.

    Without consulting either City Council or the City Attorney’s office, Quan ordered Interim City Administrator Lamont Ewell to give WMAC a 30-month extension for the $80 to $90 million annual waste hauling deal that initially began Dec. 1, 1995, for a 17-year period [see The Oakland Shadow, April 11, 2011].

    Despite repeated promises of transparency in her administration, Quan three times ducked all questions about the WMAC contract extension.
    Karen Boyd, public information officer for the city administrator, later said Ewell made the decision based on revenues that would accrue to the city, along with capping next year’s rate increase to 1.5 percent.
    More details later today in The CityWatch Report.
    EBMNS 050511 0333 PDT

  25. VelVel

    WMAC contract and related Mandatory Garbage fee is another scam perpetrated on Oakland residents. More staff than is necessary is charged to this fund, and the fee is supposed to be revenue neutral. This is part of Oakland’s standard budget shenanigans: shift general fund positions to other funds, typically negative ones, and say you’ve made the hard cuts to GF positions.

  26. LoveOakland

    RE: Negative fund balances

    Most of these are debts that city General Fund departments owe to other General Fund Departments. For example, if a computer goes on the blink at a firehouse, an IT person will come and fix it. IT then ‘bills’ Fire. So while it is a good idea to pay down negative fund balances over time, it is important to keep in mind that it comes from the same pot of money.

  27. LoveOakland

    Garbage contract

    Oakland isn’t unique. SF hasn’t bid out its contract in 75 years. That said, at least Oakland gets a franchise fee while San Fran doesn’t.