Ten Things the Opponents of Measure Z Have Wrong – Part I

Ten Things the Opponents of Measure Z Have Wrong – Part I

We’re reading a lot on neighborhood list serves, Facebook and blogs about Measure Z, the public safety ballot initiative on this November’s ballot. And much of what we see from opponents of the measure is just flat out wrong. We begin with the assumption that none of the opponents of Measure Z mean ill, so we will avoid the kind of vitriol and ad hominem attacks that appear all over these arguments (e.g. “liars,” “fraud,” “crooks,“con artists” etc.). Instead, in this and the two blog posts that follow, we will look at the ten most common opposition arguments and show why they are factually wrong.

Opponent Argument Number 1: Measure Z does not provide enough police staffing, so we should vote it down and support a measure that provides for 800, or 900, police officers.

Response: None of the people who make this argument have offered an alternative measure. None of them have presented public opinion research data showing that a different measure would pass. Given Oakland’s many past unsuccessful attempts at public safety parcel taxes before and after Measure Y, it would be foolhardy to hinge public safety hopes on a tax measure, or any ballot measure, that has not been researched.

MOBN!, together with Jobs and Housing Coalition, Oakland Community Organizations, Youth Alive!, East Bay Asian Youth Coalition and Acts Full Gospel Baptist Church of God in Christ, financed a significant amount of public opinion research, including focus groups and polling. We learned two important things about Oakland voters: (a) they strongly believed public safety efforts should include both policing and violence prevention and intervention efforts; (b) they were unwilling to pay the tax that would be needed to fund 800 police, let alone 900. The voters’ choke point for a parcel tax was $99.

Some opponents argue that their new, hypothetical, non-existent measure should require the City to guaranty a much higher number of officers without requiring the taxpayers to fund it. In other words, impose a parcel tax of $99 that funds $13 million for police, but demand that Oakland fund as many as 200 more officers than the measure funds, at a cost of $40 million or more per year, plus $25 million for recruiting and training (the cost of five police academies, each yielding 40 police officers.) But none of these Oaklanders tell us what cuts they will make to generate this funding or how City government would otherwise find necessary funding. If they can identify and propose those cuts or funding sources, we may well support them. But this is a major undertaking that will not be aided by reducing dedicated police funding by $12 to $13 million, as the opponents would do by defeating Measure Z.

And finally, while the opponents typically argue that the City should place a “better, cleaner” measure (for which they never articulate any details) on a special ballot next June,

none can seem to explain how they will have this hypothetical ballot measure researched, drafted and ready to be voted on by Council by March 5 – 17 weeks after this November’s election – in order to have it voted onto the ballot 88 days before the election, as required by law.

Opponent Argument No 2: The expiring Measure Y’s tax proceeds are all available until June 30, 2015, so there is plenty of time to regroup.

Response: This argument exemplifies the old adage “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you aren’t entitled to your own facts.” The correct facts are these: the last of the Measure Y parcel tax will be billed by Alameda County with the 2014 property tax billing statements that some property owners have already received. It will be paid to the County in December 2014 and April, 2015, and the proceeds received by Oakland in the second half of 2015. The parcel tax proceeds are included in the 2014-15 city budget, so this part of the argument is correct.

But Measure Y doesn’t provides for just a parcel tax (which is continued under Measure Z). Measure Y also provides for a parking facility tax (also continued by Measure Z). The parking tax of 8.5% yields about $8.4 million per year, and collection will stop December 31 2014. So if Measure Z fails, Oakland will come up short as much as $4.2 million for the first six months of 2015. And of course, since that 8.5% is already built into parking prices, ending it simply gives an extra 8.5% to parking lot operators – nobody expects them to reduce their prices if the tax goes away.

Opponent Argument No 3: City Hall doesn’t need this money – they just need to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.

Response: It’s common for political candidates in State, Local and National elections to run on a campaign of eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse.” One of Oakland’s mayoral candidates is running on this platform. But we have not seen a single successful candidate in any political race in the country who has solved financial problems by rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. Waste, fraud and abuse exist in virtually every government – indeed, in virtually every large organization of any kind – and they ought to be rooted out. But they don’t yield anywhere near the money that Oakland – and most big cities – need.

Several years ago, one of our board members asked one of the leading opponents of Measure Z “How will the City finance these police officers without the parcel and parking taxes?” Her answer: “That’s not my problem – it’s the city’s problem.” We’ve yet to see an opponent of Measure Z who has a concrete answer to this question. They all talk about priorities, but nobody will tell us what they will eliminate.

Tomorrow: Yes, 678 officers isn’t enough. That’s no reason to vote down Measure Z.

MOBN! Releases Responses to Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire

Since the last election, Make Oakland Better Now! has become a 501(c)(3) non-profit.  This means, among other things, that we do not endorse candidates for public office.  However, we continue to obtain questionnaire responses from candidates concerning the most critical issues faced by the City of Oakland.  Today, we are pleased to release responses to our questionnaires from Mayoral candidates.

MOBN! submitted our questionnaire to all fifteen mayoral candidates.  We received responses from all but four, with Jason Anderson, Eric Wilson, Rebecca Kaplan and Ken Houston not participating (although Ken Houston did send us a copy of his platform statement).  The full responses  are available, and here are the links:

Saied Karamooz
Peter Y. Liu
Patrick McCullough
Bryan Parker
Jean Quan
Courtney Ruby
Libby Schaaf
Nancy Sidebotham
Dan Siegel
Joe Tuman
Charles Williams

Ken Houston (platform statement)

The questionnaire, with links to candidate answers to individual questions, is below.

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Responses to MOBN!’s District 6 City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Make Oakland Better Now! sent candidate questionnaires concerning the most critical issues facing the City of Oakland to the four District 6 City Council Candidates. We received responses from two of the four candidates, not receiving responses from incumbent City Council member Desley Brooks or candidate James Moore.

Links to the complete responses are here: Shereda Nosakhare, Michael Johnson.

The questionnaire, with links to candidate answers to individual questions, is below.

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Responses to MOBN!’s District 4 City Council Candidate Questionnaires

Make Oakland Better Now! sent candidate questionnaires concerning the most critical issues facing the City of Oakland to the three District 4 City Council Candidates. We received responses from all three.  Links to the complete responses are here: Annie Campbell WashingtonJill BroadhurstPaul Lim.

The questionnaire, with links to candidate answers to individual questions, is below.

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Responses to MOBN!’s District 2 City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Make Oakland Better Now! sent candidate questionnaires concerning the most critical issues facing the City of Oakland to all five District 2 City Council Candidates.  We received responses from four of the five candidates, not receiving responses from Ken Maxey. Links to the complete responses are here:

District 2:  Abel Guillen, Dana King, Kevin Blackburn, Andrew Park

The questionnaire, with links to candidate answers to individual questions, is below.

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Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z (III)

This is the third in a series of posts on Measure Z, which is on Oakland’s November ballot and which we support. In the first, we talked about why police matter. In the second we talked about Measure Z’s minimum staffing requirement. Here, we talk about Operation Cease Fire and violence prevention programs.

Oakland’s Operation Cease Fire Is Making a Difference and Should Be Expanded

Beginning in 2011, MOBN! was one of two Oakland groups (the other was Oakland Community Organizations) advocating to have the City implement a Cease Fire program following the model described by David Kennedy in “Don’t Shoot.” This is the gun-violence reduction strategy that has succeeded as an organizing principle in Cincinnati, Boston and many other cities. Comparing this year to the past three, murders are down 34%, firearm assaults 17% and robberies 22%. We are convinced Cease Fire has played a major role. But like most municipal activities (and not just in Oakland), Cease Fire has been under resourced, with no guaranteed source of revenue for its program manager or data analysis, and an inadequate number of case managers. Measure Z provides funding to expand this very important strategy.

Many Violence Prevention Programs Provide Real Value to the Community; Measure Z’s Data-Based Selection Criteria and Oversight Requirements Will Strongly Favor the Selection and Retention of Violence Prevention Programs That Actually Prevent Violence.

A common refrain from those who know little about violence prevention programs goes something like this: “There’s no evidence that any of these violence prevention programs actually have any impact in reducing violence.” MOBN! has spent a lot of time looking at Oakland’s programs, and we have found that like most generalities, this one is an untrue oversimplification. Furthermore, we are convinced that the oversight requirements in the new measure will have a positive impact in making sure that violence prevention programs funded by the new measure must prove they are reducing violence.

Are there programs that are less than perfect? We imagine there are. But we also know there are programs providing essential re-entry services – job search skills and jobs, education, training, life skills — to recently incarcerated persons released into the community. We know there are responders to violence in the community who have an enormous impact on keeping acts of violence from being compounded by acts of revenge. We know that Operation Cease Fire won’t work without program support. And we know Oakland’s Department of Human Services has data showing that the majority of tracked service recipients in these programs stay out of the criminal justice system.

There are three features in the accountability portions of Measure Z we really like:

  • First, violence prevention programs under Measure Z must arise out of a “coordination of public systems and community-based social services with a joint focus on youth and young adults at highest risk of violence as guided by data analysis.” In other words, let’s use data to figure out who we need to serve to reduce the risk of violence, and then coordinate everything done by public systems (police, probation, human services, etc.) and non-profit service providers to reduce the risk among those persons.
  • Second, Measure Z replaces the former Measure Y oversight committee, to which anyone could be appointed, with a new “Public Safety and Services Violence Prevention Commission” whose nine members must have experience in criminal justice, public health, social services, research and evaluation, finance, audits, and/or public policy.
  • Third, the new commission has far more significant responsibilities than the Measure Y oversight committee, including participation in setting evaluation criteria, recommending strategies for continuance and termination, and participation in a meaningful way in the evaluation process.

While It Is Not The Answer to All of Our Public Safety Needs, Measure Z Has The Potential of Helping Oakland Improve Public Safety With No Increase In Taxes. Defeat of the Measure Will Seriously Damage The City.

When it began collaborating on this ballot measure, Make Oakland Better Now! was looking for global solutions to all of Oakland’s crime problems. As part of the process, we worked with other organizations in a public opinion research endeavor which showed us, unfortunately, that Oakland voters are not ready for the global solutions and that above all else, they didn’t want a tax increase. And they were adamant they wanted violence prevention services to be part of any measure they voted on. So we worked with our partners in the community to urge a ballot measure that improved Measure Y and gave Oaklanders better value for their small parcel tax and parking tax. Measure Z does those things. It deserves Oaklanders’ votes.

Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z (II)

Part Two: Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z

This is the second in a series of posts on Measure Z, which is on Oakland’s November ballot and which we support. Last time we talked about why police matter. This time we talk about Measure Z’s minimum staffing requirement.

Screenshot 2014-09-11 at 11.06.42 AM

Measure Z Has A Real, “Boots on the Ground” Police Staffing Requirement

Measure Y, passed ten years ago, required that the City budget for at least 803 police as a condition to collecting the taxes, but had no requirement that any particular number be actually hired. So the City budgeted for 803, but only actually hired that number for a brief period in 2009. Then, the City stopped hiring police and then laid off 80 officers. This reduced the number of police into the mid-600’s. After that, the voters passed Measure BB, eliminating the threshold altogether.

Although it’s a lower number than 803, Measure Z reinstates a hiring threshold, requiring the City to immediately budget for at least 678 police, and hire and maintain that number as soon as practicable (and no later than mid-2016). Here is what it says:

Upon passage of this Ordinance, the City shall maintain a budgeted level of no fewer than six hundred seventy eight (678) sworn police personnel (including those sworn police personnel funded by this Ordinance) at all times, and shall hire and maintain no fewer than 678 sworn police personnel as early as practicable after the passage of this Ordinance and at all times after July 1, 2016.

Further, “The City shall be prohibited from collecting the taxes provided for in this Ordinance at any time that” it fails to meet these requirements, with certain limited exceptions.

Furthermore, as the City Auditor has observed, to maintain a floor of 678 police, the City has to budget for at least 700 officers, and probably more. As the number of officers fluctuates up and down, the number will often be more than 700. And while there are a few exceptions to the requirement, we are convinced those exceptions will be very hard – and in some instances impossible — to establish.

Is 678 police – or 700 – enough? Of course not. MOBN! has long taken the position that Oakland needs at least 900 police, and a resource allocation study to show how many we need and how they should be assigned. But getting to that number will have to be for another day. Meanwhile, a reduction of 52 to 59 officers resulting from defeat of Measure Z will surely make things worse – likely reducing police staffing to a number below 600. Oakland voters should not make things worse.