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.