MOBN! SUPPORTS THE PROPOSED PUBLIC SAFETY MEASURE – IF THE CITY GUARANTEES A THRESHOLD NUMBER OF OFFICERS
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.
Starting in early 2013, MOBN! joined a coalition of community, business, faith-based and non-profit groups looking for answers to these questions. In polling of likely voters, we learned that the community strongly believed we need more police, believed in non-violence programs, and was very unlikely to pass a measure that did not provide for both. We also learned that, while restoring the police department to 800+ officers (the minimum number suggested in the recent Strategic Policy Partners report) would require a parcel tax of more than $250 per year, voters were not going to support a parcel tax higher than the current Measure Y amount (set to go up to about $99).
Make Oakland Better Now! Believes in data; that means we need to pay attention to what the data shows us. And the data showed us that the voters are presently unwilling to foot the bill for the amount of money it would take to accomplish a full department restoration.
After that, the missions became these: (1) design a ballot measure resulting in no increased tax over the Measure Y amount; (2) fix the biggest problem with Measure Y, by requiring the City to hire and maintain a specific number of officers (not just budget for them) in order to collect the taxes; (3) bring a higher level of focus to violence prevention programs, coordinate them and require a higher level of accountability. The resulting proposed ballot measure, distributed to Council for consideration this Tuesday, offers the following:
- It results in no change in the taxes, setting the parcel tax at $99 (where it would be with inflation next year under Measure Y) and the parking tax at the current 8 ½ percent;
- It prohibits collection of either of the taxes if the City fails to budget for a minimum number of sworn police personnel (700) or if it fails to hire or maintain that number at all times after July 1, 2016 (the number is actually projected to reach 700 this year, but the measure provides the City some time to stabilize the serious fluctuations it has experienced). While there are several exceptions, they are very narrow, and generally require a “severe and unanticipated financial or other event” or a one-time only unexpected shortfall after the City does all of the right things to recruit and hire.
- If MOBN!’s proposed changes are accepted, it will prohibit any police layoffs that would result in fewer than 800 officers, meaning as a practical matter that there will be no more police layoffs.
- It narrows the focus of violence prevention activities, increases the level of coordination, and stresses that when all is said and done, the measure of success will be whether or not the strategies funded by the measure are reducing community violence.
MOBN!, the Community Policing Advisory Board, Youth Alive and several others have made some additional suggestions (including the “no layoffs” suggestion) that can be seen in a supplemental report here.
MOBN! came into this process looking for a revolution – a measure that would rebuild the Oakland Police Department and completely reorganize how we look at programs and coordinate all of our public safety efforts. We still believe Oakland needs all of this. But we also believe Oakland voters should avoid a $22 million hole in the City’s public safety budget. While we cannot expect this one measure to carry all of Oakland’s public safety burden on its shoulders, everything the currently proposed measure does is a good thing for our City. We will be there on Tuesday to support it. Please come and join us. After that, there will be much more work to do.
What: City Council Meeting. When: Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 6:30 p.m. (Ceremonial and Consent Agenda matters from 5:30 to 6:30 or somewhat after). Where: Oakland City Hall, City Council Chambers.