Oakland Budget Bits No. 1 — The 2015-2017 Budget: What’s Happened So Far, and What Happens Next?

As it has in the past several budget cycles, Make Oakland Better Now! will be providing Oakland residents with tools to help understand the city budget.  In the forthcoming “Oakland Budget Bits” series, we will try to present – as concisely as possible—a guide to the process, the challenges, the priorities and the decisions that evolve as Oakland’s mayor, City Administrator and City Council move toward adoption of the 2015-2017 two-year budget. Here, in Bit No. 1, an introduction to the process.

Oakland’s budget adoption process has often been chaotic and opaque. When the process ended, knowledgeable persons who had been there every moment were sometimes unable to describe what happened.  In 2013 and 2014, however, the City Council adopted a set of policies designed to facilitate transparency, order and clarity while increasing the level of resident input.  These policies, which are being implemented for the first time this year, include the following:

  • January (right after Council term commenced): Council holds initial budget workshop to hear presentations on baseline expenditures (e.g., the cost of continuing existing programs and meeting existing commitments), revenue projections and an overview of the City’s budgeting process. This has taken place.
  • February: The City releases its public opinion poll on budget priorities.  This actually happened on March 2.  The results are here, and show that (a) when asked to choose from a list of 9 possible budget goals, 80% stated that keeping crime and violence low was their top priority. When asked a to identify a top and number 2 priority in an open-ended question (i.e., no answer suggested), 38% – a plurality – identified “crime/violence,” “more police/funding/police issues” or “public safety,” while 82% volunteered one of these as number 1 or number 2 priority.
  • March 15, Council Members are to state their expenditure priorities. Council has held two meetings for this purpose, and priorities have been published by CM’s Kalb (D1), Guillen (D2), Gibson-McElhaney (D3), Campbell-Washington (D4) and Gallo (D5).  CM’s Kalb, Guillen, Campbell-Washington and Gallo list an increase in officers as their first priority. CM’s Brooks (D6), Reid (D7) and Kaplan (At Large) have not published statements of priorities.  While not required to as part of the budget process, the Mayor has published her priorities here: holistic community safety, responsive trustworthy government, sustainable vibrant infrastructure and equitable jobs and housing.
  • April 30, Release of the Mayor’s Proposed Budget and Fact sheet – this is scheduled to be released to the public at a ““Budget & Brew Budget Release Party” at Linden Street Brewery, 95 Linden Street, Oakland.
  • May 5, Mayor’s submission of the proposed budget to the City Council.
  • May and the first ten days of June: Public Budget forums.  These are presently scheduled as follows:
Date & Time Location
May 7, 6pm-8pm Think College Now

2825 International Blvd., Oakland,

May 11, 6pm-8pm Redwood Heights Recreation Center

3883 Aliso Avenue, Oakland

May 13, 6pm-8pm Eastmont Mall

7200 Bancroft Avenue, Oakland

May 18, 6:30pm-8:30pm St. Paul Episcopal Church

114 Montecito Avenue, Oakland

May 27, 6pm-8pm Oakland Zoo Zimmer Auditorium

9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland

May 30, 10am-12pm Faith Presbyterian Church

430 49th Street, Oakland, CA

  •  June 1: Budget Advisory Committee’s Report
  • June 17: Council President proposes amendments to budget.
  • June: Council Deliberations, Budget Amendments, and Budget Adoption by June 30th.

There are more available on-line resources, and more opportunities for citizens to be heard, than we have ever seen before during the budget process.  There are many resources, including video presentations by the Mayor, at the City’s budget page here. There will be graphic presentation of the proposed, and final budget, at Open Oakland: Budget.   And here, as a starting point only, is a pretty good Piktochart presentation the budget office put together:

We can be sure budget will be the primary subject on the agenda for City Council meetings on  May 5 and 19 and June 2, 16 and 30, (all at 5:30 at City Hall), with special meetings likely to be scheduled as well.  You can give your views at these meetings, by e-mailing your city council member (or any city council member – contact information here), you can e-mail the City with your views at BudgetSuggestions@oaklandnet.com, leave a message on the budget hotline at (510) 238-4995, take the mayor’s budget survey or or leave a message at www.SpeakUpOakland.org.

To get you started, in the coming days, we’ll be publishing posts on some of the most critical issues for the budgeting process:  restrictions on revenue sources, pensions and benefits, and Oakland’s long-deferred capital expenses. So stay tuned.

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 2 Comments

  1. Hobart Johnson

    Probably important to keep in mind that there’s quite a difference between 1. statements of budget priorities and 2. commitments to concrete goals and measurements of progress towards goals. City hall may be doing somewhat better at #1 but #2 is actually the critical matter.

    #2 means having actual plans for getting things done. Regarding public safety I think it’s important to point out that Oakland currently has funding for significantly more cops than Oakland has been able to hire. Something fundamental is thus amiss.

    In addition to this, Mayor Schaaf during her campaign promised a public safety plan to be created during her first 100 days. If there is one I haven’t seen it. What I have seen is the reference mentioned above to something called “holistic community safety.” I don’t know exactly what this phrase means. It strikes me as something more like “hella” leadership and “Oakland’s special sauce” than anything in the real world.

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