On Sunday, it turned out to not be rainy at all. Instead it was sunny and beautiful, which made me fear even more for turnout at the event. When the sun comes out after such yucky weather, who wants to spend their weekend afternoon sitting inside some church meeting room talking about performance based budgeting?
So I was delighted when I walked in (late — I had a minor crisis trying to get there) to see the chairs almost all full, and a really healthy sized audience. It says a lot about how much Oaklanders care about seeing the City become more successful that so many people were willing to give up such a beautiful afternoon.
The event overall was great, too. The presentations were really informative, and it was just so delightful to see that amount of energy and interest in these wonky, but extremely important issues. I took some video of the meeting, so if you weren’t able to make it, you can see what you missed below.
Ignacio De La Fuente spent his time talking about how difficult it is to really make any kind of tangible change in City Hall, noting that he has seen a number of groups similar to Make Oakland Better Now! come and go during his time. He talked about the need for amendments to the City Charter relating to issues like PFRS, pension contributions, and contracting out City services, and said that such ballot measures will have to come from the people, because the Council will not place them on the ballot.
Make Oakland Better Now!’s Nicolas Heidorn gave a great presentation about how the City can be better prepared to weather future budget crises by adopting a rainy day fund policy.
City Attorney John Russo commended the group on the policy work they’ve done, and urged them to become more political in their efforts, and to think about forming or working with a Political Action Committee that would lead signature drives to put charter amendments on the ballot. Like De La Fuente, he insisted that change is never going to come from within City Hall. As an example of a needed charter amendment, he suggested language that would allow the City to more easily contract with volunteer groups, non-profits, and Business Improvement Districts for the provision of services.
City Auditor Courtney Ruby complained a lot about State issues and listing things she thinks our State representatives are doing wrong. I found it the least compelling of the presentations.
Make Oakland Better Now!’s Jim Blanchman made a brief, but thorough presentation about the City’s PFRS obligations — for those unfamiliar with the term, that is a retirement system that the City used to have for police and fire employees that is now closed, but that we’re still paying on.
The PFRS issue comes up every so often (and will definitely be more on the radar in the coming months), and I have to admit, I hate having to go through the whole thing and explain it, cause it is frankly, kind of convoluted and usually takes me a really long time. But I thought he laid out the whole issue really clearly, and from now on when people ask me about it, I’m totally just going to send them the link to this video.
BTW, there are a couple of PFRS-related items on the agenda for today’s Finance & Management Committee meeting, and I do plan to write about them, but I’ve got a wicked busy schedule, so I can tell you right now that it’s unlikely I’ll get anything up on that subject before the weekend.
In between presentations, there was a lot of interesting Q&A, and I’ve broken those out into individual videos as well, which you can watch below.