Ten Things the Opponents of Measure Z Have Wrong– Part III

Ten Things the Opponents of Measure Z Have Wrong – Part III

This is the third and final day of our looking at the ten most common arguments we are hearing in opposition to Measure Z, and showing why they are wrong.

Opponent Argument Nos. 8 and 9: Measure Y had insufficient oversight for how the money was spent, and Measure Z is even worse. The new commission has insufficient authority.

Response: The answer to this just takes a simple reading of the two measures. Here are the relevant excerpts from the soon-expiring Measure Y:

An independent audit shall be performed to assure accountability and the proper disbursement of the proceeds of this tax in accordance with the objectives stated herein in accordance with Government Code sections 50075.1 and 50075.3. Tax proceeds may be used to pay for the audit.

. . . .

To ensure proper administration of the revenue collection and spending, and the implementation of the programs mandated by this ordinance, the Mayor shall appoint three members of a “Violence Prevention and Public Safety Oversight Committee” and each councilmember shall appoint one member. The committee shall review the annual audit, evaluate, inquire and review the administration, coordination and evaluations of the programs and make recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council for any new regulations, resolutions or ordinances for the administration of the programs to comply with the requirements and intent of this Ordinance.

That’s it – an annual audit, an evaluation of unstated frequency and content, and an “oversight” committee of unknown qualifications and with no required staffing or other financial report that can review everything and make recommendations. That’s all.

How about Measure Z? Measure Z provides for an oversight panel with required qualifications, background and experience. It specifically provides for both financial audits and expert evaluations based on whether the programs are, in fact, reducing community violence. It provides for real and meaningful input from the commission and the City Council about violence prevention strategies. It requires public forums where the participants can show how these strategies are, or are not, reducing community violence. And it provides funding for the evaluation and oversight process.

Here are the relevant provisions (this is a very long block quote, but there is so much erroneous information out there about “oversight,” we wanted to provide all the language):

(A) Commission: Adoption of this Ordinance shall establish a “Public Safety and Services Violence Prevention” Commission.

1. Qualifications: The Commission’s membership must be comprised of individuals with experience in criminal justice, public health, social services, research and evaluation, finance, audits, and/or public policy.

2. Conflicts of Interest: Each Commission member shall certify that the member and the member’s immediate family members, business associates and employers have no financial interest in any program, project, organization, agency or other entity that is seeking or will seek funding approval under this Ordinance. Financial interest includes, without limitation, salaries, consultant fees, program fees, commissions, gifts, gratuities, favors, sales income, rental payments, investment income or other business income. A Commission member shall immediately notify the City Administrator and the Chair of the Commission of any real or possible conflict of interest between membership on the Commission and work or other involvement with entities funded by the taxes provided for in this Ordinance. Any dispute about whether a conflict of interest exists shall be resolved by the Public Ethics Commission.

3. Composition: The Commission shall consist of nine (9) members. The Mayor and each councilmember shall recommend one member of the Commission each. All commissioners shall be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council in accordance with City Charter Section 601. At least two (2) members will have experience working with service-eligible populations, two (2) members will reflect the service-eligible populations, and two (2) members will have a professional law enforcement or criminal justice background. Other members will meet the criteria as established in subsection 1 above.

4. Meetings of the Commission: The Commission shall conduct regular meetings and such special meetings as it deems necessary.

5. Joint Meetings of the Commission and City Council: The City Council, the Commission and other public safety-related boards and commissions shall conduct an annual joint special public informational meeting devoted to the subject of public safety. At each such meeting, the public, Commission and City Council will hear reports from representatives of all departments and the Chief of Police concerning progress of all of the City’s efforts to reduce violent crime.

6. Duties of the Commission: The Commission shall perform the following duties:

(a) Evaluate, inquire, and review the administration, coordination, and evaluation of strategies and practices mandated in this Ordinance.

(b) Make recommendations to the City Administrator and, as appropriate, the independent evaluator regarding the scope of the annual program performance evaluation. Wherever possible, the scope shall relate directly to the efficacy of strategies to achieve desired outcomes and to issues raised in previous evaluations.

(c) Receive draft performance reviews to provide feedback before the evaluator finalizes the report.

(d) Report issues identified in the annual fiscal audit to the Mayor and City Council.

(e) Review the annual fiscal and performance audits and evaluations.

(f) Report in a public meeting to the Mayor and the City Council on the implementation of this Ordinance and recommend ordinances, resolutions, and regulations to ensure compliance with the requirements and intents of this Ordinance.

(g) Provide input on strategies: At least every three (3) years, the department head or his/her designee of each department receiving funds from this Ordinance shall present to the Commission a priority spending plan for funds received from this Ordinance. The priority spending plan shall include proposed expenditures, strategic rationales for those expenditures and intended measurable outcomes and metrics expected from those expenditures. The first presentation shall occur within 120 days of the effective date of this Ordinance. In a public meeting, the Commission shall make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council on the strategies in the plans prior to the City Council adoption of the plans. Spending of tax proceeds of this Ordinance must be sufficiently flexible to allow for timely responsiveness to the changing causes of violent crime. The priority spending plans shall reflect such changes. The Commission will recommend to the Mayor and City Council those strategies and practices funded by tax proceeds of this Ordinance that should be continued and/or terminated, based on successes in responding to, reducing or preventing violent crime as demonstrated in the evaluation.

(h) Semi-Annual Progress Reports: Twice each year, the Commission shall receive a report from a representative of each department receiving funds from this Ordinance, updating the Commission on the priority spending plans and demonstrating progress towards the desired outcomes.

(B) Accountability and Reporting.

1. Annual Program Evaluation: Annual independent program evaluations . . . shall include performance analysis and evidence that policing and violence prevention/intervention programs and strategies are progressing toward the desired outcomes. Evaluations will consider whether programs and strategies are achieving reductions in community violence and serving those at the highest risk. Short-term successes achieved by these strategies and long-term desired outcomes will be considered in the program evaluations.

2. Annual Audit Review: An independent audit shall be performed annually to ensure accountability and proper disbursement of the proceeds of this tax in accordance with the objectives stated herein as provided by Government Code sections 50075.1 and 50075.3.

And before all of this, Section 3, subpart (A), provides as follows: “Allocation. To achieve the objectives stated herein, three percent (3%) of the total funds collected shall be set aside annually for audit and evaluation of the programs, strategies and services funded by this measure, and to support the work of the Commission established herein (including meeting supplies, retreats, and the hiring of consultants).

Make Oakland Better Now! would like to see some of this authority actually vested in the Commission and not in the City Council. But that would take a change to the City Charter, which can’t be accomplished in this ballot measure.

Opponent Argument No 10: There are no meaningful metrics, and no evidence these violence prevention programs reduce violence.

Response: This argument is usually made by people who have done little to learn about violence prevention programs and what they do or do not accomplish. We also find that many people who know little about these programs claim to be very supportive of Operation Cease Fire but to oppose funding for violence prevention programs. Several things are worth noting.

First, no one should talk about whether violence prevention and intervention programs are or are not effective without studying the annual review of these programs, available here. The reviews are far from perfect (which is why we like the fact that under Measure Z, a new, qualified commission will be involved in designing the evaluation process), but it does take place. The process has improved over the ten years of Measure Y. And the requirements of Measure Z are designed to improve the process considerably, by requiring an annual study of whether violence prevention programs are actually preventing violence in the community.

Second, Oakland’s Department of Human Services keeps an enormous amount of data. Make Oakland Better Now! believes in data, so we have to respect that. While the Department is unable to track all Measure Y / Oakland Unite clients, for those it can track, it finds that more than 80% of offenders who receive services do not re-offend. This is a positive result. More details, on a strategy-by-strategy basis, are here.

Third, without violence prevention programs, there is no effective Operation Cease Fire. After the City’s first, failed effort, Make Oakland Better Now! strongly urged Oakland to implement an Operation Cease Fire program following the models of Cincinnati, Boston and other communities that has achieved a significant reduction in gun violence using this strategy. To its credit, Oakland has done so. And we believe that this strategy, while in its infancy, has had a positive impact on gun violence reduction. But part of the model is to offer services to offenders. Without programs, there are not sufficient services, and Cease Fire fails. So it is counterproductive to support Operation Cease Fire without also supporting proven, valid, meaningful violence prevention programs.

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.