Make Oakland Better Now! Looks At Two Proposed Amendments to the Mayor’s Budget – Part 1

On June 13, Make Oakland Better Now! will be present at the Oakland City Council Meeting at 6:30 p.m., urging the City Council to adopt the Mayor’s proposed budget with Council President Kernighan’s proposed changes.  This post is the first in a series to look at the budget amendments proposed by Council President Kernighan and those proposed by Council Members Brooks, Reid, and Gallo.  More information can be found in the Oakland Tribune’s Coverage, here, and Chip Johnson’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle, here (paywall).  We encourage all Oaklanders to join us at council in urging your representatives to adopt a budget reflecting the city’s need for public safety and fiscal responsibility.

Oaklanders who follow these things know what’s happening with the city budget.  As our City Council gets ready to pass a new two-year budget between now and July 1, we have the following:

In this post, and the two that follow, we will show that the Mayor’s budget, with APB1, is an imperfect but reasonable approach.  But as we will also show, APB2 constitutes an assault on efforts to restore public safety to Oakland. It is a potential public policy disaster, and it is based on millions of dollars in errors and wrong assumptions.

The Mayor’s budget is not perfect.  Among other things, it seeks to raise the sworn staffing of the Oakland Police Department to about 700 officers, while implying that this number is the goal; Make Oakland Better Now! believes that public safety is a top priority for the city, and that our police department is drastically understaffed. We further believe that the minimum number of sworn officers serving should be 900.  We believe the Mayor’s projected police attrition rates are unrealistic, so that her plan and budget will not even get us to 700.  But this budget is, at least, a step in the right direction.  And the budget’s supporting documents make it clear the Mayor appreciates the seriousness of Oakland’s long-term fiscal problems.

Recently, Council and the administration have begun evaluating how to amend the proposed budget to address a slight increase in anticipated revenues ($3.02M in Year 1 and $2.46M in Year 2) and some one-time revenues. With APB1, Council President Kernighan has proposed restoring two code compliance inspectors to enforce graffiti, blight and unpermitted mobile vendors, an illegal dumping crew, litter mitigation crew and $500K to restore 34 seats in San Antonio Head Start.

Critically, and in line with either the letter or the spirit of the recent Wasserman / Bratton recommendations, APB1 proposes adding the following civilian police support:  4 police evidence technicians, 3 criminalists for the crime lab, 1 latent print examiner, 2 CODIS (DNA index) investigators and an additional Neighborhood Services Coordinator, so that there will be 2 coordinators in each of the five new police districts.

About 40% of APB1’s proposed additions are public-safety related, which seems reasonable for a city that says its first priority is public safety.  None of the additions are for sworn personnel. As a whole, APB1 makes sense to us.

But then there is the APB2 proposal.  The proponents of APB2 claim to have identified additional revenue of $9M in 13-14 and $8M in 14-15, and propose spending over $6M in the two years for 3% cost of living adjustments for all miscellaneous (i.e., non-sworn) employees.  As we will show, we believe these calculations and many of their cost and revenue assumptions are erroneous.

APB2 adds nothing for public safety other than what is required by the Compliance Director.  It inexplicably doubles the Compliance Director’s salary (giving him $540K per year instead of the $270K ordered by Judge Henderson).  Just as inexplicably, it includes a new $300K budget line to “Hire Consultant to Craft Comprehensive Community Safety & Services Plan” – something Oakland has already done (i.e., Wasserman’s consultancy).  Meanwhile, APB2 proposes to eliminate the City’s contract with the California Highway Patrol and the five new police dispatchers, who are critical to managing the City’s ability to take 911 calls.  It includes no funding related to the OPD’s civilian staffing needs or to the Wasserman / Bratton Recommendations.  This is not how we make our city safer.

In our next installment, we will show how APB1 follows city policy, while APB2 , if adopted, would violate city policy and widely-accepted principles of municipal budgeting.

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.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Terry Christiean

    APB2 is just plain dumb–my 8 yr old knows not to use one time revenues for ongoing costs. Is there any chance that it can get the other two votes it needs? Who, pray tell, would be so clueless as to join them? Is the “make 1021/21 happy” temptation too hard for some (Kaplan. Kalb) to resist? I cant imagine it.

  2. Mike

    Oakland needs to move forward on a plan to obtain 900+ police. Deal with pensions and other programs after the dust settles. What business would move downtown with the upswing in crime? Lets go to the council meetings and support MOBN!

  3. Grumpy

    The Mayor’s/Kernighan’s public safety budgets look good mostly in comparison to the very poor Brooks/Reid/Gallo budget.

    Whether the Mayor/Kernighan budgets will actually move us towards better public safety is at best questionable. At this point one would think that a much-better-focused approach would be possible, but such appears to be well-beyond the imaginations of our Council members and Mayor.

    The chief matter that is ignored in all this discussion is competent management of resources devoted to public safety and the measurement of outcomes. We remain in the familiar, Oakland-style, throw-money-at-it mode. We allocate funds but whether programs are fully-implemented or actually produce change is ignored.

    Keep in mind that the recent iteration of Operation Ceasefire, begun nine or ten months ago last fall, has not yet been assigned a full-time project manager. This is despite David Kennedy’s and others’ clear statements that such programs must be carefully-managed, well-coordinated and fully-implemented.

    Ditto the commitment made a couple of years ago to more fully civilianize complaints about cops, incurring lower costs and freeing up more cops for street duty. Somehow the Mayor/Administrator didn’t get around to it.

    On the other hand, I would suggest that a program to actually produce 900 sworn officers in two years or so would indeed be outcomes-based. Committing to real outcomes, however, is definitely not Oakland-style.

  4. Terry Christian

    I think an interesting policy question raised by this whole situation is that there is, in fact, a difference between laying people off and avoiding layoffs by saving through furloughs and benefit changes. In the latter, when the city gets back on its feet, the existing employees immediately come back to be made whole. I understand that, of course, but it makes major policy change direction (e.g. a major new commitment more cops) very difficult to implement. Throw union/campaign politics into it and we have a formula for dysfunction.

    With layoffs, at least you can have an opportunity to rethink what you actually need when the budget bounces back.

  5. granger

    Add cops.
    Build a rainy day fund
    Cut entitlements by 20%.
    When departments fail to perform (e.g. street maintenance, traffic signals), contract out the service.
    Cut City Council’s budget by 10%
    Avoid public private partnerships like the plague.

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