Will the Mayor’s Proposed Budget Rebuild Oakland’s Police Department?

On Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Church, 114 Montecito, Make Oakland Better Now! will sponsor a public forum, “Can Oakland Afford to Be Safe?,” featuring Chief of Police Howard Jordan, City Administrator Deanna Santana and key staff members to discuss the connection between Oakland’s budget challenges and the need to rebuild the Oakland Police Department. All concerned Oaklanders are urged to attend. Meanwhile, we are beginning our analysis of the mayor’s proposed policy budget and its impact on public safety.

Make Oakland Better Now! is in the process of analyzing the mayor’s proposed policy budget that was released on Wednesday. One element struck us immediately. While this is the first proposed budget to include police academies in years, we question whether those academies will result in the sworn officer increases the mayor has announced. We are concerned that because Oakland needs at least 900 officers, if not more, the goal she posted are being moved and not in the right direction.


Oakland’s Budget Process: Happy Days Are Not Here Again

The Mayor and Administration are expected to release a proposed city budget between April 15 and 20 and present it to council on April 30. After that, the budget will be considered by council at special meetings (all at 6:30 p.m.) on Thursday, May 23, Thursday, June 6 and (for final adoption) Thursday, June 27. This is the second in a series by Make Oakland Better Now! on Oakland’s budget challenges.

Make Oakland Better Now! began analyzing Oakland’s budget in 2009. Soon after that, we publicly stated that our city faced a 2010-11 structural deficit as high as $48 million, including negative fund balances, un-funded liabilities, and deferred capital repairs. We predicted that deficit would climb to $155 million by 2013-14. Before we published this view, we presented it privately with a number of elected officials, whose reactions ranged from surprise to agreement to adamant denial.

Starting last fall, the City Administrator began publishing thoughtful, reasoned reports stating that, considering negative fund balances, un-funded liabilities, deferred capital repairs and other deferred expenditures, the City’s annual structural deficit ranged from $155 million to $159 million over the next five years. This reality check / breath of fresh air is refreshing and encouraging: the first step to solving your problems is accurately identifying them.


Make Oakland Better Now! Begins Its 2013 Guide to the Oakland City Budget Process

Tuesday, April 2 at 5:45 p.m., Oakland City Council begins its budget process for fiscal years 2013-15 with a budget workshop. Today, Make Oakland Better Now! begins a series of posts to help Oaklanders understand the budget and the budget process.

Earlier this year, the Make Oakland Better Now! board agreed our primary focus for now will be public safety. One thing we learned long ago is that budget facts drive just about everything. If you don’t understand the city budget, you can’t understand public safety policy. And if don’t fix what’s wrong with the city’s budget, you can’t fix what’s wrong with public safety, either.  Put simply:  this budget process is going to be a critical element in determining if, how and when Oakland can restore it police department.

With that in mind, we are publishing a series of blog posts on the upcoming Oakland budget process.  We will start with some simple introductory facts about the process.  Some readers will already know these, but we want everybody to have the same baseline knowledge.


Oakland City Auditor’s Report: “A Culture of Interference”

The city auditor’s report on Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs Performance Audit found that five council members or their aides interfered in administrative affairs and violated section 218 of the Oakland City Charter, which states that council members or their aides cannot interfere with daily activities such as “contracting, hiring, appointing or firing City employees, or giving orders to City employees who are under the City Administrator’s supervision.” City Auditor Courtney Ruby called this provision “the underpinning of an ethical structure” that was created to protect citizens and businesses of Oakland alike. According to the report this ethical structure is being threatened, something that is troubling at a time when Oakland is working to earn the trust of its citizens.

The audit, conducted from 2009 through 2012, analyzed 27 anonymous reports, 67 hotline tips, 40 individual interviews, tens of thousands of emails and all applicable phone calls. The audit found that the administrative interferences originated from two council members’ offices and that those two council members “violated the law by exerting inappropriate influence in City contracting and operations.” The council members will remain on the Oakland City Council, but if they are found guilty of a misdemeanor crime for administrative interference they will be removed.


Make Oakland Better Now! members help Oaklanders Understand the Issues

Part of Make Oakland Better Now!’s mission is to help Oaklanders understand what all of us  are dealing with when it comes to addressing key issues like public safety, budget reform and responsible approaches to city budgeting.  This includes participating in media events.

In the past month, we have had two opportunities to provide our views on main stream media.  Make Oakland Better Now! board member Jim Blachman recently appeared on radio station KALW with Deputy City Administrator Scott Johnson and Bay Area News Group columnist Dan Borenstein to discuss the challenges for Oakland posed by unfunded pension and other liabilities.

And Make Oakland Better Now! board members Joe Tuman and Bruce Nye recently appeared with Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church of God In Christ on the Oakland Tribune’s web site to discuss the need for more police in Oakland.



Time to Reform the Public Speaker Process at City Council Meetings

Except for the final passage of the four measures in the wee hours of the morning—at about 3:30 a.m.—the January 22 City Council hearing on strengthening the OPD did no service to Oakland.

As is too often the case when the Council hears contentious issues, the arduous process operated as a war of attrition between those speakers able to stay practically until dawn, and those who had to go home on BART before its midnight closing.

Those who attended the meeting or watched it on KTOP, found it difficult to remember that the purpose of Council hearings is to help the Council make the best decisions for the residents of Oakland.  Instead, we were treated to the spectacle of hundreds of speaker-card holders clogging the system with repetitive messages, AND not providing any information to help the decision process. Council’s actions in the past at similar marathon sessions have given the impression to participants that public policy objectives can be achieved by rallying large numbers of vociferous speakers to monopolize the hearing process. This is no way to set policy.


Come to Tonight’s City Council Meeting – But Then Keep Coming Back

Oaklanders who follow City Hall know that four public safety proposals are coming before the City Council tonight at its 5:30 meeting, as Council decides whether to:



Why The Bratton / Wasserman Proposal Should Be Adopted By Oakland’s City Council

Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee will vote on whether to forward to Council a proposal to add $250,000 to the City’s public safety consulting contract with Strategic Policy Partnership.  This is the Robert Wasserman, Chief William Bratton proposal that we discussed here.  We strongly encourage Oaklanders to come and support this proposal.

The proposal is starting to run into opposition based on two arguments that either misstate or misunderstand what the proposal is:  The first argument goes something like this:  Oakland has already spent, is already spending or going to spend millions on outside Occupy investigators, on a a Federal Court monitor, on a Compliance Director, why do we have to spend money on this as well?


Learn More About The Upcoming Public Safety Proposals — Then Come Out And Support Them

Just about everyone in Oakland and in Oakland City Government says “public safety is our number one priority.” If  we mean it, we are going to have to take big steps and bring big change. Among other things, this means finding cost-effective ways to grow the Oakland Police Department to a sworn staffing level of 900.  And it means having a comprehensive public safety program.

But while we are getting there, we also need to support the smaller measures that can make a difference. Three of those are the proposals by Council Members Schaff (D4) and Reid (D7) to borrow Sheriff’s Department officers, hire civilian technicians and lock in a second police academy for Calendar year 2013.