So, it looks like the City won’t be shutting down on Fridays after all. (Or closing parks!) You may recall that when Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums submitted his budget proposal a couple of weeks ago, he left a $10 million deficit and told the Council to figure out how to close it (offering them three options). Subsequently, Dellums explained that he actually didn’t want the Council to make their own decision, and instead expected to save the money by closing the City every Friday, cutting the pay of every non-sworn employee by 20%.
Um…that’s awful. I’m sorry, but the City is here to provide service, and Oakland residents do not pay some of the highest taxes in the Bay Area for four day a week service. Beyond that, slashing everyone’s pay by one-fifth is unconscionable. And I say that even while believing strongly that most City positions are overpaid, and, yes, we do need to do something about that. Something like freezing wages for several years until they align closer with Bay Area averages, not taking away money that people are already counting on.
Anyway, you’ll be happy to learn that we are not going to shut down the City on Fridays after all. We’re also (hopefully) going to avoid some of the worst of the direct service cuts that Dellums had incorporated into his budget. Ignacio De La Fuente and Jean Quan introduced their own proposal for filling the final gap. Write something clever here:
- Close the City one day per month, instead of one day per week, and for the period between Christmas and New Years, saving $3.8 million. (Um…does this include libraries? I ask because it doesn’t seem like the best idea to close libraries during Winter break when the kids are out of school.)
- Eliminate all overtime for non-sworn employees for the rest of the fiscal year, except that which is explicitly approved by the Mayor.
- Cut pay-go in half (saving $1 million). Quan reminded the audience that since the majority of pay-go funds are paid to Public Works for capital projects, and that this will likely result in reduced funding and possible additional layoffs in that department.
- All elected officials would take a 5% pay cut. This would save only $55,000, but the percentage would be equal to the pay cut the rest of the City’s employees will be receiving due to the closures. Seems fair.
- Suspend the Cultural Arts grant program – there would be no grants, no grant personnel, no personnel funding for the public art program. Eliminating the General Fund contribution to the Marketing Department, which would retain funding from the Redevelopment Agency and CEDA. KTOP and the revenue-producing Film Liason would not be impacted. (I was telling a friend about this, and he got all upset. I didn’t really get it. Cutting the grants sucks, obviously, but if the choice is between grants to artists and the park…I mean, that seems like a no-brainer. BTW, I know a guy who voted for Dellums based entirely on an intractable (and I tried to tell him at the time, totally misguided) belief that Dellums would give tons and tons of free money to artists. Ha!)
- Eliminate a bunch of administrative positions/positions earning over $100,000. OPD would have to eliminate two administrative positions that earn over $100,000, and the Fire Department would have to do three. They get to pick which.
- No more management leave.
- No more professional development allowances.
- Eliminate the budget for bottled water (hooray!), food, and flowers. (KTVU will be so happy.)
- Eliminate a funding for a variety of things that don’t get very much – AIDS prevention education funding ($100,000), the Sister City program ($20,000).
- Save $300,000 by canceling the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau contract. (This is totally fine with me. OCVB sucks. Wait. Does this mean there’s not going to be a holiday parade?)
- Eliminate $400,000 from the Mayor’s office budget, returning it to Jerry Brown-era level funding. It can either be all from staff, or from a combination of staff and pay-go. His choice.
- Civilianize the taxi detail (OMG! OMG! Finally! Now that’s some taxi reform I can get excited about.), adding half a FTE under the City Administrator, letting Public Works do the inspections and putting three sworn officers back on the street. (Again, finally! This is sooo long overdue. Cops inspecting taxis. It’s preposterous.)
- The Park Rangers would not be cut. Two of the Animal Shelter positions the Mayor wanted to cut would stay. The Museum would get to keep one of the positions the Mayor wanted to cut. Half of the Bookmobile’s budget would be restored – not back from the General Fund, but from a transfer from the Library’s books & supply fund.
- Start a voluntary time off program, as requested by the union, as though Quan was skeptical that this would save much money, saying other cities hadn’t had much success with such efforts.
So…this is good. For now. There’s obviously no way to close a deficit like this without it hurting somewhere, but De La Fuente and Quan definitely have their priorities a whole lot more in order than Dellums.
Let’s see, Council comments. Desley Brooks said she’d like to see a prohibition on taking City vehicles home overnight. Nobody seemed to have an issue with that. Brooks said that she’d like to see the Council’s legislative committee staff eliminated (that would be four positions added a few years ago with one-time funding). Nancy Nadel said she supported that move, as did Larry Reid, who then one-upped her by giving this bizarre history lesson about how the Council used to not have staff at all and then they had like, one part-time staff, and then went on about how now there’s too much staff. It was weird – I kept thinking while he was talking that his staff probably didn’t like that very much.
Jane Brunner said she really wanted to do a golden handshake program, “even if it’s not a savings in itself.” De La Fuente and Quan asked staff to return later with a detailed analysis of the fiscal impacts of a golden handshake program, and I have to say, I think it’s a really, really bad idea. It’s one of those things that’s just going to cause more pain in the long run, and part of the reason we’re having the problems we’re having now is because we kept pushing back our responsibilities for later. We have to stop! Brunner, who appears to view the City as a job creation program, not a vehicle for providing services to the people who live here, naturally doesn’t care.
Nancy Nadel, who, I swear, gets more ridiculous by the day, wants to save money by resigning our membership in the Congestion Management Agency, which, um…are you even allowed to do that? (Larry Reid later pointed out that the paltry sum we pay for our membership brings us millions and millions of dollars for transportation improvements – how is it even possible that Nadel is so out of touch that she didn’t know this?) And then she went on about work furloughs for the City Council or something. Man, that woman really doesn’t like her job, does she?
Dellums, naturally, didn’t like the new plan very much, complaining about how much he needs his AIDS education funding. (I actually agree with him on this one, and so did a couple of the Councilmembers. The $100,000 assigned to that has been leveraged pretty well to bring in a lot more money, and like Pat Kernighan said in her comments, anything that generates money is probably not the greatest place to cut.) And he didn’t want to cut the cultural arts grants either – I guess he likes those better than park rangers. Or the food and water budgets. And, of course, he threw a total temper tantrum about being asked to cut his office budget, ranting about how they were trying to strip power from him and that the voters gave a mandate for a strong chief executive and that cutting his staff would mean that we were returning to a city manager form of government. Because it’s clearly impossible to hire and fire the City Administrator without your own Special Assistant for Boards and Commissions. Also, the Council cutting his budget violates the concept of separation of powers.
And he couldn’t help but insert a totally random dig at pay-go:
I don’t personally think pay-go is good public policy, but that’s who I am…As far as I’m concerned, you can take every dime of pay-go. I’m not interested in utilizing it.
Except…um…he does use it. So…well, consistency has never exactly been one of the Mayor’ strong suits.
Anyway, that was pretty much that. They’ll be back on Tuesday to refine and fight it out some more.
- 10.02.08: What Measure Q? More broken promises from the City of Oakland.
- 10.01.08: Dellums on the budget
- 09.26.08: Mayor’s new budget proposal now available
- 07.23.2008: Mayor Ron Dellums to review his own budget