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.
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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.
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What Will It Take To Restore The Oakland Police Department?

As we explained last month, all four City Council members elected in the most recent election have adopted the MOBN! position that rebuilding the City’s police department is the City’s highest priority.  Last month, City Council Members Larry Reid and Libby Schaaf proposed three public safety measures, including one that Council confirm a police academy conditionally budgeted for June, 2013.

MOBN! supports all three measures, including the academy confirmation, the use of Alameda County Sherriff’s deputies and the hiring of civilian technicians.  But even if these proposals are adopted, the City’s current course will not restore the department in the near future.  Here’s why:
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Transparency and Accountability in the Oakland City Council: Examining the Mid-Cycle Budget Process

While much of Make Oakland Better Now!’s recent advocacy has involved public safety and budget issues, two of our key values are transparency and accountability.  To us, these mean keeping City Hall’s inner workings open and honest. Now that City Council is in its August recess, we want to wrap up our discussion of the recent mid-cycle budget process, which ended in a dispiriting and opaque action by the Council.

As those who follow City Government know, Oakland operates on a two-year budget cycle.  When things are going smoothly, the City makes “mid-cycle adjustments” once, after the first year.  Other times, as in the 2009-11 cycle, it may seem as if the City is making adjustments every month.

This January, the City made significant adjustments in its budget to reflect the loss of redevelopment money after the California Supreme Court upheld legislation eliminating redevelopment agencies.  Then, in May of this year, the Mayor and City Administrator  proposed further adjustments that focused heavily on public safety and economic development, anticipated a general purpose fund revenue increase of $3.93M, and an increase in GPF spending of $3.86M, resulting in a slight net increase in the surplus.

While we noted some flaws in and questions raised by the proposal, we were generally supportive.  The administration acknowledged that the proposal did not fix all of the City’s long-term deferred expenses (e.g., pensions, retiree health care, deferred maintenance on the City’s assets), but it was operationally balanced and its emphasis on public safety and economic development made sense.  The proposals went to Council at three public hearings.  In advance of each hearing, the administration provided written reports to the public and the Council addressing questions raised by both.

What happened next?  Read about it after the jump.

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City to Consider Mid-Cycle Budget Adjustments. Here’s What MOBN! Thinks.

Like most cities, Oakland operates on a two-year budget cycle, adopted to cover two fiscal years running from July 1 through June 30 two years later.  The current cycle runs through June of 2013, which means we are half way through it.

As is typical, the city is about to start looking at its fiscal performance to date and changes in its projections in order to determine what changes should be made in the second year of the budget.  Council will begin considering mid-cycle adjustments on Monday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m. The agenda is here.

The reports containing the City Administrator’s and Mayor’s recommendations are here and here.  For the first time in recent memory, there are no recommended layoffs, closures or reductions of city services.  While there are budget overruns (the largest is in the OPD — either $8.6 million or $9.6 million), there are also some positive revenue developments.

The Administration’s proposal addresses a number of important issues MOBN! has been stressing for quite some time:  increased civilianization of police department functions,  increased police academies, and possibly  a new approach to NSA compliance.  The Administration also indicates it has looked seriously at the Los Angeles Police Department (as MOBN! did here) and hopes to bring in a civilian inspector general, which LAPD has had for more than ten years.

The administration is also recommending implementation of an “unanticipated expenditures fund,” which looks like the first, small step toward a rainy day fund, a practice MOBN! and the City’s Budget Advisory Committee have long advocated.

We have a number of questions about some issues, including the City’s use of one-time sources of income to counter unexpected expenses, the potential shrinkage of its reserve and the reasons for a number of the budget overruns.  We have raised these in our letter to Mayor Quan, City Administrator Santana and the City Council, which is available here (full text also available after the jump).  We will also plan to present those questions at the meeting Monday night and future meetings considering these changes.

To read the full text of our letter, click “Continue Reading,” below.

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