Fact Checking The Mayoral Candidates’ Positions, Part Four: Police Officer Layoffs

By Jennifer Inez Ward, Contributing Editor, Oakland Local

Oakland Local and Make Oakland Better Now! have teamed up to take a close look at the accuracy of candidates’ responses to an online questionnaire from MOBN!. We want to know if candidates being truthful and accurate in their responses, or are they veering from facts and offering opinion without any solutions? Each day, Oakland Local will run a fact checking story on seven important questions.

Wednesday’s Question: What did the mayoral candidates say about police layoffs?

Don Perata

Perata said he will find jobs within the city administrative office instead of cutting police officers. “The safety of Oakland cannot sustain firing another 120 cops. Period.”

Perata said that he will look for the support of voters to pass a tax increase that will stop any additional cop layoffs, if money cannot be found in city coffers. Unlike city council, Perata said, “the mayor can make a credible case to homeowners.”

Perata goes on to criticize Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan’s actions during the Oscar Grant demonstration and claimed neither council members have “led the front” on major issues including parking, pensions, and public safety.

What We Found: It’s unclear why voters would pass a possible tax increase if, in the past, they voted down others connected to public safety. Even if the Mayor’s office advocated a particular increase, it’s unclear voters would swallow another tax.

As for Quan and Kaplan leading on major city issues, Quan’s supporters would argue that her extensive local government background would benefit the city greatly. One supporter said Quan, help shut down the crime-ridden motel and reinvigorate the Dimond District neighborhood.

Kaplan can point to her work in trying to bring in additional revenue to the city via marijuana production and helping to lead the charge in reforming Oakland’s out-dated nightclub and cabaret laws.

Jean Quan

Quan doesn’t spend too much time in her answer outlining what she would do as mayor regarding this issue. Instead, she offers her thoughts on the current ballot measures: “It is unlikely that V will fail there will be some new revenues. I am still hopeful that BB can pass which would reduce the need for layoffs significantly without raising taxes. I do not believe X has a chance and we will immediately begin negotiations with the OPOA for pension contributions.”

Quan goes on to say that she is hopeful there can be a fair settlement on the pension issue and from there, “the city will review budget and ballot options based on midterm revenue projections.”

What We Found: There’s little in her answer that gives a clear projection of Quan’s actions as mayor on this issue.

Joe Tuman

Tuman’s answer to the question was a bit rambling (he asked if the MOBN! query was a “factual” or “normative” question). Tuman said with layoffs almost certain for police officers in January, he would focus on getting federal dollars from the Justice Department to hire “officers related to gang prevention and drug enforcement.”

Tuman also said that while he is working on dealing with Oakland’s deficit issue, as mayor, he will seek to “extend only on this interim basis to use redevelopment money to hire a limited number of officers.”

Long term, Tuman would like to bring in more police officers by employing, “an innovative policy that blends early retirement and a second-tier for new recruits.”

What We Found: In the last year, Oakland has found some success in tapping federal dollars for public safety. But going forward, it’s going to take a strong innovative mayor to get significant funds from the feds; other cash-strapped California cities are also hoping for federal help

It’s unclear if Oakland’s mayor’s office can in fact try and use redevelopment money for hiring police officers. Back in 2007, Mayor Ron Dellums proposed the very same solution to Oakland’s policing issue.

Terence Candell

Candell said that while he cannot bring back the police officers recently laid off in July,  he has put together an initiative to save the 120 police jobs.

What We Found: Candell outlined his plan in response to another MOBN! question.

Arnie Fields

Fields said that safety is first in Oakland, but he didn’t get specific about what he would do other than to say he would, “will eliminate jobs from the top.”

What We Found: It’s unclear what jobs or what city departments Fields was referring to.

Greg Harland

Harland said if the measures fail, “There are no steps by the new mayor to prevent them.” He said instead, he will “immediately begin the process of rebalancing the budget and rebuilding the force with the ultimate goal being 1050 officers.”

What We Found: Harland gave no detailed follow up plans for how he would “rebalance” the budget or how he would bring the Oakland Police Department ‘s police force up to 1,050 officers.

Rebecca Kaplan

Kaplan said she did not vote for the July police layoffs and that she believes the best way to “avert the layoffs (is) through a combination of pension reform and the use of retirement incentives as the backup plan if force reduction is necessary.”

Kaplan thinks that, “There is also significant room for negotiation with the Police Officers’ Association on the pension issue.”

Kaplan says she will also support efforts to seek federal funds for public safety in Oakland.

“I will be able to negotiate from a position of strength with an unbiased perspective;”

What We Found: As mayor, most of Kaplan’s success with carrying out her public safety goals will depend quite heavily on having a good relationship with police officers—particular on the issue of renegotiating the pension plan.

It’s unclear if Kaplan can develop a positive relationship with police as mayor or press hard in negotiations. At one point she was the subject of criticism because of her role in pension negotiations (coming from San Francisco’s police union) Also, there may be some raw feelings regarding Kaplan’s behavior at an Oscar Grant demonstration downtown in July.

Don Macleay

Macleay wants to declare a “budget emergency” if elected.

He declines to give specific examples because, “(the) real budget outcome will be the result of a series of government and union negotiations and a complicated political process with our city council, our county and our state.”

Macleay goes on to say that, “the next mayor should treat our public safety budget as an emergency on day one.”

What We Found: Macleay’s answer was vague at best.

Note: This story is a collaboration between Make Oakland Better Now!, Oakland Local and Spot.us. Thanks to Jen Ward and Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig for their work.

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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