Category Archives: Public Safety

Mayor’s State of the City Address: Accountability, Infrastructure, and Housing


In our last post we analyzed Mayor Libby Schaaf’s strategy for “holistic community safety” outlined in her State of the City address. Today, we’ll continue our discussion, looking at her other three stated top priorities: responsive, trustworthy government, sustainable infrastructure, and equitable jobs and housing. 

Responsive, trustworthy government 

The Mayor’s total policy discussion on accountability was as follows:

“I could tell you about our transparency and ‘gov 2.0’ projects—like our Digital Front Door website redesign, our employee civic lab or plans for a 3-1-1 call center, but it really starts with the people.”

She then praised top staff members, the City Administrator, and other recent additions to her team.

Our take:
We don’t criticize the Mayor for publicly and openly supporting her people—that’s an important part of leadership. But we call for more emphasis on policy. A starting point might be these initiatives from her campaign white paper on how to “bring Oakland government into the 21st Century”:

What I Will Do 

Implement 311 System for better service delivery:
Do you know what number to call to report illegal dumping or a pothole? Most big cities use a 3-1-1 system to make it easy for residents to request help from their government. As Mayor I will implement a world-class 311 customer service center that transitions the City to a new generation of technology that centralizes citizen requests and makes the process and resolution of each request accessible to the public 24/7 on our website.

CityStat and the Office of Strategic Performance:
I will link the 311 service request system with a CityStat performance accountability system led by a newly established Office of Strategic Performance (see Louisville, Kentucky for a good model). I will work with department heads to establish clear performance measures and nurture a culture of continuous improvement within City Hall. In pursuit of this goal, OSP will help City departments and agencies deliver high quality services to citizens in a cost-efficient and transparent manner. Three core efforts include strategic planning, performance management, continuous improvement consulting and training. We can save on technology procurement dollars by conducting internal and external user research to scope projects more efficiently, determine what the needs are and design a scope of work to fulfill those needs. Too often contracts are signed without a clear understanding of the pain points, and key opportunities to solve actual problems are missed.

Sometime soon, Oaklanders should hear about where we stand on these efforts.

More after the break. Continue reading

Mayor’s State of the City Address: What the Mayor Said About Safety, And What We Think

As many Oaklanders have heard, Mayor Libby Schaaf gave her first State of the City Address last week at City Hall. You can watch the full video and a read a complete transcript on the city’s website, and find recaps in the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribune and Oakland North.

Oaklanders are fiercely divided on issues such gentrification, affordable housing,
development, crime and safety. We argue over the future of our city, we disagree. But as the Mayor emphasized, twice in her speech, “We must turn toward each other, not on each other.”

Mayor Schaaf returned to four basic priorities for Oakland that she first outlined during her campaign and at her inauguration: holistic community safety, equitable jobs and housing, sustainable infrastructure, and responsive, trustworthy government.

In this post, we’ll focus on holistic community safety, summarize the Mayor’s positions, and present some thoughts of our own.

Holistic Community Safety

The mayor began by expressing optimism about violent crime trends, citing numbers purportedly showing “Oakland is getting safer.”

For the third consecutive year, we have double digit reductions in non-fatal shootings — down 14% compared to this time last year. Residential burglaries and home-invasion robberies are significantly down, 15 and 54%, respectively. We’ve had a similar number of robberies as last year, which continues to be 27% below the previous 3 years average.

She then acknowledged that murders were up by 15% from last year and at the time of her speech there had been 71 homicides so far in 2015.  “I can’t celebrate improvements while overall levels of fear and harm in this city remain so unacceptably high. And behind every number and trend line lies a heartbreaking story of loss.”

That brought us to what was going to change:

  • The Mayor announced that 35 new officers were graduating from academy on October 30, that 50 more were in training, and that we were “on-track to meet my promise of 800 officers by 2017.”
  • She stated Oakland would use “recently awarded federal grants to hire walking officers for our commercial corridors, expand our 21st century policing reforms, and combat the horrific sexual exploitation of minors in Oakland.”
  • She promised that Oakland would strengthen Cease Fire, would expand it to reduce robberies, and would more than double case managers and increase street outreach workers.
  • She applauded Oakland Police Chief Whent for recognizing that “policing is about being guardians of the community not warriors within it,” and promised that OPD would “reduce arrests by 26% and use-of-force by 15%, while continuing to bring down crime.”
  • She stressed the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the police department’s Procedural Justice Training, giving a shout out to Rev. Damita Davis-Howard from Oakland Community Organizations and PICO’s Pastor Ben McBride for their guidance.
  • Finally, the Mayor promised: “By the end of the year we’ll release Oakland’s first Comprehensive Community Safety Plan, crafted by a diverse array of experts. It will create better collaboration and collective accountability for a holistic set of goals—ranging from increasing high school graduation rates to improving reentry support to making Oakland a restorative justice city.”

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City Council Meeting Tonight: Five Budget Proposals and Lots More — It’s Going to Be A Long Night

City Council holds a special meeting tonight at 5:00 p.m., and it’s going to be very long one. Council will be deliberating over the Mayor’s Budget Proposal and the additional proposals of Council President Gibson Mcelhaney’s proposals and additional proposals by CMs Brooks, Guillen and Gallo. Also before Council will be CM Brooks’ proposed establishment of a Department of Race and Equity and alternate proposals by the Mayor and Council President Gibson Mcelhaney. Many of the reports were only issued at the end of last week, and Make Oakland Better Now! is  still evaluating the Mayor’s budget and some seven other reports.  Our initial reactions to CM budget proposals, however, are discussed in our letter today to Council:

June 22, 2015

Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson Mcelhaney, and Members of the Oakland City Council

Re: June 22 Council Meeting Budget Deliberations,                                                                      Agenda Items 10 and 11                       

Dear President Gibson Mcelhaney and City Council Members:

Make Oakland Better Now! is a citizens’ advocacy group supporting public safety, public works, transparency and accountability in government and budget reform in the City of Oakland.

As we have during each recent two year budget cycle, we are closely monitoring this cycle’s budget process.  With a number of council member proposals having only recently been posted, our evaluation is still in process. However, we do have some initial responses which we will share with you before tonight’s meeting.

Public Safety: The city’s budget priority poll late last year showed what every poll within memory has shown:  that Oaklanders’ number one concern is public safety. This is scarcely a surprise in a city that remains one of the most violent in California (and where serious crime is actually up 5% over last year). We recognize that there are multiple elements to public safety.  However, we have seen no polling that would support, for example, allocation of resources for additional City Council staffing, council member-sponsored festivals, or banner design and fabrication.

As supporters of civilianization and increased investigative capacity, we applaud the proposed additions of police evidence technicians and crime analysts.

However, we are very concerned about the proposal to eliminate the Deputy City Attorney III position for NSA compliance. The recent Swanson report makes it clear how essential this position is to help bring our Police Department and City out from under the ongoing financial burden court oversight. That position will surely be required once court supervision ends to ensure that the NSA-related reforms are sustainable.

We also question the realism of an arbitrary cut to police overtime. We join with council, with the administration, with command staff and, quite frankly, rank and file police in their concern about the heavy burden of police overtime and ongoing overruns of the overtime budget. The department has examined and reported on the causes of this overtime, and until we address those causes – primarily severe departmental understaffing – an arbitrary, budgetary reduction is not reality based.

Fiscal Sustainability:

As shown by the Mayor’s budget, and in multiple reports received by Council over the past few years, Oakland’s long-term liabilities are crushing and have to be faced. The OPEB unfunded liability for contractually required, earned retiree health benefits is close to half a billion dollars. Negative fund balances with no source of reimbursement – which threaten the City’s bond rating – are nearly $76 million.

In past budget cycles, Council has enacted last-minute changes to its fiscal policies that steered the city away from responsibly addressing its debt (by, for example, increasing the availability of one-time funds to meet ongoing expenses instead of to reduce accrued liabilities). Accordingly, we are concerned to see several proposals from Council members to eliminate the proposed pay-down of negative fund balances and reduction of the unfunded OPEB liability. We are also concerned to see proposed reliance on revenue sources that do not yet exist (e.g., an as yet non-existent cannabis producer’s tax), or which the administration believes are unrealistic (e.g., the proposed increase to business tax revenue).  The long-term success of our city depends on a prudent management of the city’s financial obligations and a reality-based projection of revenues.

We will be corresponding and speaking further with you when we complete our analysis of all proposals. We wish you the best in your deliberations.


Make Oakland Better Now!

Joint Statement of Jobs and Housing Coalition and Make Oakland Better Now! Concerning Crowd Control and Crowd Management During Public Demonstrations

Jobs & Housing LogoMOBNgreenlogo

  • We strongly support the efforts by Mayor Schaaf to accommodate and facilitate the exercise of free speech while at the same time protecting persons and property from attack by vandals and others who embed themselves within otherwise lawful and peaceful demonstrations.
  • We believe it is both appropriate, Constitutionally permissible and consistent with Oakland’s Crowd Control and Crowd Management Policy to impose narrowly tailored restrictions on the time and place of demonstrations, including a permit requirement (with streamlined, rapid processing and no or minimal cost), limitations on nighttime demonstrations and reasonable limitations on demonstration locations, including the blocking of streets.
  • We believe that the City Council, the Mayor, the City Administrator and the Oakland Police Department must bring an end to the hijacking of the democratic process such as occurred at the regular City Council Meeting of May 5, 2015. All residents of Oakland and businesses in our city have a right to public governmental meeting conducted by their elected representatives in an atmosphere free of intimidation, disruption and stoppage, protecting the participation rights of all members of the public. Our democracy is damaged when a small number of demonstrators is allowed to halt the business of that democracy, and this is true regardless of the cause they espouse.
  • City government and OPD should make every possible effort to keep communications open with demonstrators before and during demonstrations. If, despite these efforts, demonstrations interfere with the democratic process, or violate reasonable, narrow and constitutionally permissible restrictions, or are embedded with individuals committing violence to persons or property, those demonstrations should be declared unlawful, and participants should be lawfully disbursed.
  • To the extent it is necessary to obtain Court permission to modify Oakland’s Crowd Control and Crowd Management Policy, we urge the City, and all other parties in the Coles v. City of Oakland, Local 10, ILWU v. City of Oakland and Spalding v. City of Oakland matters to enter into a meaningful, cooperative meet and confer process, and if that process does not succeed, we urge the City to petition the Federal Court for appropriate relief.

It’s Time To Modify Oakland’s Crowd Control and Crowd Management Policy

Mayor Libby Schaaf says she supports freedom of expression and the right of Oaklanders and Oakland businesses to be free of violence caused by individuals who embed themselves in otherwise peaceful demonstrations. While we support her efforts to change strategies to eliminate violence at demonstrations, Make Oakland Better Now! encourages her to approach this somewhat differently.

Both  #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName are important local and national movements. Our communitymleaders play a critical role in affirming to the nation that we will not tolerate the injustices we have seen in Ferguson, in Cleveland, in New York and throughout the country, including, much too recently, in Oakland.

Having said that, we are proud of what OPD has done in the past two years to improve its relationship with the community, and most especially with people of color. Far too little of this change has been acknowledged in our public dialogue. It is no accident that OPD has experienced only one officer-involved shooting (resulting in no injury) in the past two years, and that no OPD gunfire has resulted in death for more than three years. Indeed, OPD, working with the faith-based community and outside consultants, leads the country in police legitimacy and procedural justice training. While there is much more to do, no fair-minded person can ignore these recent improvements.

It is now time for Oakland to lead the country in developing a model that balances protection of First Amendment rights for demonstrators with protecting the rights of adjacent business owners.    Continue reading

What Do Oaklanders Think About Our City Budget? They Want to Be Safe!

In May, 2013, Oakland’s City Council passed a resolution, sponsored by then-city council member, now Mayor Libby Schaaf, to substantially revise Oakland’s budget process.  The idea was to add transparency, predictability and order to a process that has often been sporadic and incomprehensible. The new process significantly increased the role of Oakland’s Budget Advisory Committee, set a schedule, and required an orderly approach to public and City Counsel input.

The new process required that Council hold a “biannual” [sic] budget workshop in the fall preceding the budget adoption year, and that staff present a Five Year forecast, to be made widely and publicly available, no later than February 1.  The budget workshop did not happen until January 28 of this year, and the Five Year forecast has not yet been seen.

But there is one requirement of the resolution  where Oakland is ahead of schedule. For this one, the Budget Advisory Committee, not staff or City Council, were responsible.  The resolution requires the following:

During the January – March period prior to Budget Adoption of a budget adoption year, the City Administrator should develop or secure a statistically valid survey for assessing the public’s concerns, needs and priorities. Whenever feasible, the City should conduct a professional poll administered to a statistically relevant and valid sample of residents that is representative of Oakland’s population . . . . If that’s [sic] not possible, then demographic information should be collected and reported out with the survey results.

Prior to release, the survey questions shall be submitted to the Budget Advisory Committee for review of bias, relevance, consistency in administration, inclusion of benchmark questions, and ability to assess concerns, needs and priorities.  The survey instrument, method of dissemination and any instructions for administration shall be publicly available.

Although the “survey instrument, method of dissemination and . . .instructions for administration” were not publicly available, the poll did happen.  A downloadable report (pdf) with the results is here.  And here is what respondents said about their budget priorities:

Respondents were asked an open-ended question about the two most important issues facing Oakland residents that they would like to see prioritized in the City government budget. . . . Their most frequent answers related to crime and public safety, which over six in ten mentioned as either their first or second choice: crime/violence (20% first choice, 13% second), more police/funding/police issues (10% first choice, 6% second) and public safety (8% first choice, 5% second).

This table summarizes responses to the open-ended question:

Current Priorities for the City Budget

(Categories with 2% or More as First Choice)

            In the upcoming two-year budget, what are the two most important issues facing Oakland residents that you would like to see prioritized in the City government budget?

Budget Priority % first choice % second choice
Crime and safety 38 24
    Crime/violence 20 13
     More police funding / police issues 10 6
     Public safety 10 5
Education / Public Schools 8 5
Housing costs / affordability 10 6
Street and sidewalk maintenance 8 8
Jobs / Keeping business 7 11
Youth activities 3 3
Homelessness 2 4
Public transportation / buses 2 2

We are particularly impressed by the fact that these were spontaneous answers to open-ended questions, not a selection from choices.  This is much more compelling than responses to multiple choice polling questions.

So the answer should be clear to the City Council, the Mayor, the City Administrator and the budget office:  more than anything else, Oaklanders want to be safe.  This priority should guide everything that happens during the budget process over the next four months.

And Make Oakland Better Now! will be there to deliver that message to the city, and to let you know how the process is going.

MOBN! Supports Proposed Safety Measure if City Guarantees Officer Threshold


Tuesday night, Oakland’s City Council has a very big agenda (and will be holding a very long meeting). But the most critical item on that agenda is a resolution to place a public safety and services ballot on this November’s election, to take effect in January when Measure Y expires.

As most readers of Oaktalk know, Measure Y was passed ten years ago, and provides for a parcel tax and parking tax that provide $22 million for “problem solving officers,” violence prevention programs and fire funding. We could provide a litany of issues and problems with Measure Y, but will save this for another day. Our questions have been (1) what would happen without the $22 million?, (2) what would the voters be willing to do?, and (3) what politically acceptable solutions were there to solve the biggest problems with Measure Y.

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