Make Oakland Better Now! Budget Survey

At the Make Oakland Better Now! budget meeting on January 11, we passed out a ballot asking members in attendance to give us their views on where the city should make the cuts that are going to be necessary to balance this year’s and next year’s budget.  We had around30 people at the meeting, but only about 15 cast their ballots.

So, we decided to put a slightly expanded ballot on line and give people another chance.  On line, more  than 100 Oaklanders  sent a message about what they thought, and the message was pretty consistent:

  • Hands off the police department;
  • You can’t fix this with program reductions;
  • City salaries and benefits are out of control;
  • Fixing this problem will take broad-based, across the board personnel cost reductions in every department.

After the jump, we’ll show you how Oaklanders voted at the meeting, and we’ll give you some of the data from their on-line voting.

First of all, not many Oaklanders voted at the meeting, but here’s the count for those who did:

Yes Neu- No
Eliminate 179 sworn officers 1 1 11
Eliminate Neighborhood Safety Coordinators 2 2 9
Eliminate human services for seniors and disabled 2 5 6
Eliminate City Attorney programs 4 2 7
Eliminate GPF for personnel for Museum 6 4 4
Reduce GPF for Meas Q eliminate Oaklanders Assistance Ctr 5 2 6
Eliminate Oaklanders Assistance Ctr 5 2 7
Personnel cost reductions by furlough/job elim 2 4 1
Job freeze 1
Restructure retirement 1
Furloughs 4
City Council cuts 6
Charter revision allowing sub-contracting 2
1 furlough day/mo 1
Discretionary cuts, % by dept 3
Job freeze & early retirement 1
Personnel cuts 1
Reduce public safety salaries 1
Mayor’s office cuts 1

On the other hand, just short of a hundred responded to the on-line survey.  There is a great deal of data in the results, and only a few areas of near-unanimity. But there are some clear trends.

Public Safety Cuts:

The most severe possible cut in the survey was an elimination of 179 sworn police officers.  We did not expect this proposal to get many votes;.  And we didn’t include less severe cuts in the number of officers because our analysis indicated that a cut would have to be this deep before it resulted in any significant savings in this fiscal year.  Not surprisingly, nearly all respondents opposed police officer reductions.  Although the reaction wasn’t as strong, most of the other proposed public safety cuts were also opposed by those who had opinions.

There was a plurality (41% – 26%) in favor of reducing public safety salaries.

The graphic below is cut off at the right because of blog formatting, and the font is a little small.  But it’s linked to the full table, so you can click it and get a clear view of the data.

Personnel Cuts

In responding to personnel cuts, Oaklanders expressed six favored choices.  In order of popularity, they were:  restructure retirement (76% – 4% among those expressing opinions);  across-the-board personnel cost reductions by furloughs, job eliminations and other appropriate step (58% – 22%); institute early retirement (57% – 14%); job hiring freeze (57% – 19% — note the city council enacted a freeze at its January 19 meeting); make across-the-board job position cuts (53% – 39%); and create job-hiring freeze and institute early retirement (52% – 20%).

Here’s the table, and again, you can click it to see all of the data in a readable format.

Other Reductions

Finally, we surveyed reactions to a variety of other possible budget reductions, most of which were received favorably.  Certainly the most popular reduction was the elimination or minimization of free parking for city employees and public officials, recently discussed at City Council’s Finance and Management Committee and covered  here at A Better Oakland. Assuming that this is a $400,000 per year perk, the amount to be saved from now until the end of FY 09 – 10 is probably no more than  $150K – $165K .  Nonetheless, while 1 voter opposed this reduction and 3 were neutral, the remaining 92 favored it.  Oaklanders were almost as enthusiastic about cuts to the mayor’s office (89 in favor and none opposed.  76 voters, or 78% also wanted to reduce city council’s budget.

While parking, the mayor’s budget and the city council’s budget represent relatively small dollar amounts, perhaps the strongest statement on large amounts of money was the 76.8% vote in favor of “Require % cut across depts, in discretionary expenses.”  As discussed at the January 11 meeting, the concept here is that every department is given a percentage cut it is responsible for, whether by personnel reductions or otherwise, and managers are required to meet those reduction goals.  And that seems to be, by far, the most favored method of cost reduction among the participants in the survey.  Here’s a graphic of the chart, again linked to a larger and more complete table:

In the next day or two, we’ll put up the remaining survey results in which Oaklanders answered the question “If there’s a ballot measure for more money, where should the money go?”  Also, there are close to 100 narrative comments, and we’ll be putting up representative examples over the course of the next week.  And the board will soon circulate its letter to the City Council telling the members where you all stand.

Thanks to all who participated.  Thanks to Debbie Richman for putting together the survey and to A Better Oakland, In Oakland and Today In Montclair for helping to publicize it.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

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