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Budgeting Wisely in a Time of Restraint 5:00 p.m. | Monday, June 1, 2020

The city of Oakland is facing a very difficult budget situation. We believe that the mid cycle budget amendments will be more like the adoption of a whole new budget. Join us in this Digital Discourse with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Co-presented by SPUR and the League of Women Voters Oakland.

Register here.



Photo: Sergio Ruiz/SPUR


Many months ago, seeking a ballot measure to amend the Oakland City Charter, Council President Rebecca Kaplan began circulating proposed changes to Oakland’s Measure LL (Charter section 604), the Police Commission Charter Revision. President Pro Tem Kalb began making conflicting proposals. Both agreed that the Commission needed to have an Inspector General and independent legal counsel. The Make Oakland Better Now! board has agreed with that since Measure LL went to the voters.

These issues are on the Council’s Special Meeting Agenda for Tuesday, April 21, 1:30 p.m., to be conducted virtually (details in the agenda). The vote then will not be to place them on the ballot, but to begin the required meet and confer process with the Police Officers’ union and possibly others.

President Kaplan’s proposal also seeks to remove the ability of the mayor to appoint (with Council approval) any of the members of the police Commission. As written and as approved by the voters, four members of the Commission and all but one alternate are appointed by the Selection Panel, while three members and the remaining alternate are appointed by the Mayor, subject to Council approval. President Kaplan seeks to have all the appointments removed from the mayor and transferred to the Selection Panel.

While we support the two changes concerning Inspector General and legal representation, we believe the other primary proposal is unnecessarily politically divisive, and may well make it harder to succeed in November. So today, we have written the following letter to council:

President Rebecca Kaplan and Members of the Oakland City Council. Via E-mail

Re: Proposed Amendments to Charter Section 604 Concerning Police Commission

Dear President Kaplan and City Council Members:

Make Oakland Better Now! urges your consideration of the following issues concerning some of the April 17, 2020 proposed revisions to the section of the City Charter concerning the Police Commission:

Section 604(a) Creation and Role

We strongly support the provision adding the Office of Inspector General. We propose revising the proposed addition of subsection 5 as follows:

    1. The City Administration may not exercise any managerial authority over Commissioners or their designated staff, and may not initiate an investigation for the purpose of removing a Commissioner. However, it may request an investigation of a Commissioner through the City Ethics Commission or another non-City Administration office with City responsibility for investigating conduct.

Section 604(b) Powers and Duties

We support subsection 12, permitting the Commission to directly retain attorneys to provide the Commission with legal service.

Section 604(c) Appointment, Terms, Vacancy and Removal

We strongly agree with Councilmember Kalb that section (c)(2) should not be eliminated. The question here is whether or not the Mayor retains the authority to appoint two Commission members and one alternate, with approval by the Council. This was strongly debated when the terms of Measure LL were being considered by the Council before the election, and the decision then was the right one. While the majority of Commission members are selected by the Selection Panel, the Mayor and Council should have some authority for a small number of these important appointments. This was agreed to by the voters. Nothing has gone wrong. Suggesting the change for no real reason will simply select a form of political division that should not be involved in this significant matter. Directly related to this, we agree the proposed revisions to what was subsection (c)(3) and is identified as (c)(2) in President Kaplan’s proposed revision, as well as what; was subsection (c)(3)(c) and is identified in the same proposed revision as (c)(2)(c) are not appropriate.

We also agree with President Kaplan’s proposals for subsection (c)(1) concerning the role of alternate commission members as committee members, and Council’s authority to require three commissioners to have certain areas of expertise. And with respect to the role of alternate commissioners, Subsection (g)(3)’s third sentence, partially proposed for amendment by President Kaplan, should provide as follows: “The Chair of the Commission shall appoint a Discipline Committee comprised of three Commissioners, who may be either regular or alternate members.”

We also agree with Council Member Kalb that the proposal to have subsections c(2)(a)(i) prohibit current Department employees from Selection Panel eligibility should not be included.


The Make Oakland Better Now! Board

Note to Oaklanders: We will probably be attending the Tuesday meeting by Zoom or telephone, both to encourage amendments concerning inspector general and counsel, and to stress the importance of eliminating divisive amendments to ensure the significant ones are passed.


Many Oaklanders have already heard about this, but to make sure you all know:  In this era of the Covid-19 virus pandemic, City Council and Council committee meetings will be rare but not non-existent (there were few in the last days of March, and just one meeting of any kind is presently set in April, a Council meeting on April 7).  And for the time being, pursuant to Governor Newsom’s order, meetings will be telephonic.  In that regard, Council held an emergency meeting on Friday, March 27, and enacted an emergency measure providing tenant and other protections.

Notice of the meeting to consider the measure was so brief MOBN! had no time to schedule telephonic appearances and express views.  But it is certainly critical for Oaklanders to know about it.  And among the key elements of the ordinance, passed on one reading as an emergency ordinance, are the following:

  • The Oakland City Administrator issued a proclamation of Local Emergency which was ratified by the Oakland City Council, and is presently deemed to extend to May 31.
  • Except when a tenant poses an imminent threat to the health or safety of other occupants of the property, and such threat is stated in the notice of termination as the grounds for the eviction, it shall be an absolute defense to any unlawful detainer action . . . that the notice was served or expired, or that the complaint was filed or served, during the Local Emergency.
  • Any notice of rent increase in excess of the CPI Rent Adjustment, as defined in Oakland Municipal Code Section 8.22.020, shall be void and unenforceable if the notice is served or has an effective date during the Local Emergency, unless required to provide a fair return. Any notice of rent increase served during the Local Emergency shall include the following statement in bold underlined 12-point font: “During the Local Emergency declared by the City of Oakland in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, your rent may not be increased in excess of the CPI Rent Adjustment (3.5% until June 30, 2020), unless required for the landlord to obtain a fair return. You may contact the Rent Adjustment Program at (510) 238–3721 for additional information and referrals.”
  • Notwithstanding any lease provision to the contrary, for residential tenancies, no late fees may be imposed for rent that became due during the Local Emergency if the rent was late for reasons resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes, but is not limited to (1) the tenant was sick or incapacitated due to COVID-19, or was complying with a recommendation from a governmental agency to self-quarantine, (2) the tenant suffered a substantial reduction in household income because of a loss of employment or a reduction in hours, or because they were unable to work because they were caring for their child(ren) who were out of school or a household or family member who was sick with COVID-19, or because they were complying with a recommendation from a government agency to self-quarantine, and (3) the tenant incurred substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses caused by COVID-19.  Any notice demanding late fees for rent that became due during the Local Emergency shall include the following statement in bold underlined 12-point font:  “You are not required to pay late fees for rent that became due during the Local Emergency declared by the City of Oakland in response to the COVID-19 pandemic if the rent was late for reasons related to the pandemic. You may contact the Rent Adjustment Program at (510) 238–3721 for additional information and referrals.”
  • In any action for unlawful detainer of a commercial unit based on non-payment of rent, it shall be an absolute defense if the failure to pay rent during the local emergency was the result of a substantial decrease in income (including but not limited to a decrease caused by a reduction in hours or consumer demand) and the decrease in income was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19, and is documented. This section shall only apply to small businesses as defined by Government Code Section 14837(d)(1)(A) and to nonprofit organizations. Any notice to a commercial tenant demanding rent shall include the following statement in bold underlined 12-point font:  “If you are a small business as defined by Government Code 14837(d)(1)(a) or a non-profit organization, you may not be evicted for failure to pay rent during the if the failure was due to a substantial decrease in income caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19, and is documented. This does not relieve you of the obligation to pay back rent in the future.”  This section shall remain in effect until May 31, 2020, unless extended. Nothing in this section shall relieve the tenant of liability for the unpaid rent.
  • No Residential Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent that Became Due During the Local Emergency. In any action for unlawful detainer filed under Oakland Municipal Code 8.22.360.A.1, it shall be a defense that the unpaid rent became due during the Local Emergency and was unpaid because of a substantial reduction in household income or substantial increase in expenses resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic.  This includes, but is not limited to, where, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the tenant suffered a loss of employment or a reduction in hours, or was unable to work because their children were out of school, or was unable to work because they were sick with COVID-19 or caring for a household or family member who was sick with COVID-19, or they were complying with a recommendation from a government agency to self-quarantine, or they incurred substantial out of pocket medical expenses due to COVID-19.  Any notice served on a residential tenant demanding rent that became due during the Local Emergency shall include the following statement in bold underlined 12- point type: “You may not be evicted for rent that became due during the Local Emergency if the rent was unpaid because of a substantial reduction in household income or a substantial increase in expenses related to the Coronavirus pandemic. This does not relieve you of the obligation to pay back rent in the future.  You may contact the Rent Adjustment Program at (510) 238–3721 for additional information and referrals.”   Nothing in this subsection shall relieve the tenant of liability for the unpaid rent.


Do You Feel Safe In Oakland? Join a discussion on February 27



Join us for an in depth discussion about public safety and strategies for violence prevention in Oakland as they relate to public health, implicit bias and community/police relations.

  • Director of Violence Prevention Guillermo Cespedes
  • Stanford Professor Jennifer Eberhardt
  • Community Activist Reverend Damita Davis Howard

Doors 6:00pm. Program at 6:30pm. Free & open to public.

Tickets at:


The Fair Chance Housing Ordinance Goes Before Council Tonight

At tonight’s meeting, starting at 5:00 p.m., City Council will be considering the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, supported last week unanimously at a Special Community and Economic Development Committee meeting, and on the Consent Calendar for tonight’s agenda. Make Oakland Better Now! long ago agreed to support this measure, modeled after the Fair Chance Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, a California law that generally prohibits employers with five or more employees from asking about a conviction history before making an offer.

This type of law, also known as a “Ban the Box” law, would be applied to housing, and remove some barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals to access housing.

Here, we share an in-depth interview published on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative website from May 2019 with one of the leaders, Make Oakland Better Now! Committee of 50 member John Jones III.

Oakland’s Operation Ceasefire Has Some Success in 2017 — What Can We Look For Next?

Ceasefire Oakland

We recently received the following e-mail from Reygan Harmon, Oakland’s Operation Ceasefire Director. As those who follow Make Oakland Better Now! are aware, we have been active supporters of Operation Ceasefire since before the current version was implemented. We are still supporters, and recognize the data-based studies showing it is the most effective means of reducing gang and group-based gun violence.

As you will see from our discussion below, we think this is both cause for cheer and cause to recognize there is yet much more to be done.

Here is Reygan Harmon’s brief year-end report:

Hi Everyone,

I want to thank each and every one of you for helping us to end 2017 with significant reductions in shootings and homicides. Specifically, in 2017 we set goals for a minimum of 307 direct communications (this is a combination of call-ins and custom notifications), no more than 72 homicides and 300 injury shootings. This year through all of your hard work we achieved most of our goals with 74 homicides, 277 shootings, and 319 direct communications. This is the lowest number of homicides since 1999! Although, we have a very long way to go with eliminating violence in Oakland it is because of your hard work that lives were saved. As Dr. Cummings would say we have been moving rocks every day since September 14, 2012 to move the mountain of gun violence in Oakland. When we started this work in East Oakland 5 years ago we had no money, no staff, and just a vision for a safer Oakland with a proven strategy. We didn’t know whether this would work, but we believed that Oaklanders deserved something better…And so it was with this hope, strategy, and a lot of faith and focus that every one of you worked to get young men at the very highest risk of violence to change their minds and make better decisions about engaging in violence. Often, these were difficult steps to take. Whether it be pressure to not be in this type of partnership, or the many changes in OPD, City government, lack of support, or the many worthwhile distractions…You all stayed focused. From conversations in living rooms, street corners, jails, or at Lakeshore, to focused police actions. Each and every one of you played a role in a young man making a different decision. A decision to live and be free. This decision has articulated into 327 fewer young men since 2012 being shot/killed in Oakland. I know you all do this work because you care, but I want you to know that your efforts to take that care and concern and translate it into strategic action has saved lives of young people in our community. This work matters and you matter. You all are the unsung heroes of Oakland, and a model and an inspiration for what real partnerships that transform communities can look like.

Thank you!

Reygan E. Harmon

Ceasefire Program Director

Oakland Police Department

( The homicides she refers to are murders, and don’t include self-defense or other  justified killings.)

The FBI tracks crime statistics on a city by city basis, but doesn’t release it’s final reports for each year until September of the year that follows. So the FBI gives us no basis for comparison. But the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center  for Justice calculates year-end estimates for the thirty larges cities in the United States. These obviously don’t include Oakland, but the Brennan Center’s estimate give us some points of comparison.  And this year, it estimates that overall crime for 2017 in the thirty largest cities will be down 2.7%, violent crime by 1.1% and murder down by 5.6%. We’ll do a full comparison of these and other numbers when OPD posts its year-end numbers.

For now, there are two key murder statistic comparisons:

  • While murder was down 5.6% in the 30 largest cities, it was down 12.9% in Oakland. As the letter from Reygan points out, Oakland had its lowest number of murders since 1999 (when the population was only 365,210, compared to the 420,05 today).  This certainly is cause for celebration.
  • On the other hand, amongst the 30 largest cities, the 2017 murder rate per 100,000 people is estimated at about 10. In the much improved Oakland environment, the 2017 murder rate per 100,000 people was 17.6.

What does this mean?  It means Operation Ceasefire is working and the team has done a great job. But it also means there is much, much more to be done. Oaklanders will be hearing much more from us about this in the weeks and months ahead


Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z (III)

This is the third in a series of posts on Measure Z, which is on Oakland’s November ballot and which we support. In the first, we talked about why police matter. In the second we talked about Measure Z’s minimum staffing requirement. Here, we talk about Operation Cease Fire and violence prevention programs.

Oakland’s Operation Cease Fire Is Making a Difference and Should Be Expanded

Beginning in 2011, MOBN! was one of two Oakland groups (the other was Oakland Community Organizations) advocating to have the City implement a Cease Fire program following the model described by David Kennedy in “Don’t Shoot.” This is the gun-violence reduction strategy that has succeeded as an organizing principle in Cincinnati, Boston and many other cities. Comparing this year to the past three, murders are down 34%, firearm assaults 17% and robberies 22%. We are convinced Cease Fire has played a major role. But like most municipal activities (and not just in Oakland), Cease Fire has been under resourced, with no guaranteed source of revenue for its program manager or data analysis, and an inadequate number of case managers. Measure Z provides funding to expand this very important strategy.

Many Violence Prevention Programs Provide Real Value to the Community; Measure Z’s Data-Based Selection Criteria and Oversight Requirements Will Strongly Favor the Selection and Retention of Violence Prevention Programs That Actually Prevent Violence.

A common refrain from those who know little about violence prevention programs goes something like this: “There’s no evidence that any of these violence prevention programs actually have any impact in reducing violence.” MOBN! has spent a lot of time looking at Oakland’s programs, and we have found that like most generalities, this one is an untrue oversimplification. Furthermore, we are convinced that the oversight requirements in the new measure will have a positive impact in making sure that violence prevention programs funded by the new measure must prove they are reducing violence.

Are there programs that are less than perfect? We imagine there are. But we also know there are programs providing essential re-entry services – job search skills and jobs, education, training, life skills — to recently incarcerated persons released into the community. We know there are responders to violence in the community who have an enormous impact on keeping acts of violence from being compounded by acts of revenge. We know that Operation Cease Fire won’t work without program support. And we know Oakland’s Department of Human Services has data showing that the majority of tracked service recipients in these programs stay out of the criminal justice system.

There are three features in the accountability portions of Measure Z we really like:

  • First, violence prevention programs under Measure Z must arise out of a “coordination of public systems and community-based social services with a joint focus on youth and young adults at highest risk of violence as guided by data analysis.” In other words, let’s use data to figure out who we need to serve to reduce the risk of violence, and then coordinate everything done by public systems (police, probation, human services, etc.) and non-profit service providers to reduce the risk among those persons.
  • Second, Measure Z replaces the former Measure Y oversight committee, to which anyone could be appointed, with a new “Public Safety and Services Violence Prevention Commission” whose nine members must have experience in criminal justice, public health, social services, research and evaluation, finance, audits, and/or public policy.
  • Third, the new commission has far more significant responsibilities than the Measure Y oversight committee, including participation in setting evaluation criteria, recommending strategies for continuance and termination, and participation in a meaningful way in the evaluation process.

While It Is Not The Answer to All of Our Public Safety Needs, Measure Z Has The Potential of Helping Oakland Improve Public Safety With No Increase In Taxes. Defeat of the Measure Will Seriously Damage The City.

When it began collaborating on this ballot measure, Make Oakland Better Now! was looking for global solutions to all of Oakland’s crime problems. As part of the process, we worked with other organizations in a public opinion research endeavor which showed us, unfortunately, that Oakland voters are not ready for the global solutions and that above all else, they didn’t want a tax increase. And they were adamant they wanted violence prevention services to be part of any measure they voted on. So we worked with our partners in the community to urge a ballot measure that improved Measure Y and gave Oaklanders better value for their small parcel tax and parking tax. Measure Z does those things. It deserves Oaklanders’ votes.

Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z (II)

Part Two: Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z

This is the second in a series of posts on Measure Z, which is on Oakland’s November ballot and which we support. Last time we talked about why police matter. This time we talk about Measure Z’s minimum staffing requirement.

Screenshot 2014-09-11 at 11.06.42 AM

Measure Z Has A Real, “Boots on the Ground” Police Staffing Requirement

Measure Y, passed ten years ago, required that the City budget for at least 803 police as a condition to collecting the taxes, but had no requirement that any particular number be actually hired. So the City budgeted for 803, but only actually hired that number for a brief period in 2009. Then, the City stopped hiring police and then laid off 80 officers. This reduced the number of police into the mid-600’s. After that, the voters passed Measure BB, eliminating the threshold altogether.

Although it’s a lower number than 803, Measure Z reinstates a hiring threshold, requiring the City to immediately budget for at least 678 police, and hire and maintain that number as soon as practicable (and no later than mid-2016). Here is what it says:

Upon passage of this Ordinance, the City shall maintain a budgeted level of no fewer than six hundred seventy eight (678) sworn police personnel (including those sworn police personnel funded by this Ordinance) at all times, and shall hire and maintain no fewer than 678 sworn police personnel as early as practicable after the passage of this Ordinance and at all times after July 1, 2016.

Further, “The City shall be prohibited from collecting the taxes provided for in this Ordinance at any time that” it fails to meet these requirements, with certain limited exceptions.

Furthermore, as the City Auditor has observed, to maintain a floor of 678 police, the City has to budget for at least 700 officers, and probably more. As the number of officers fluctuates up and down, the number will often be more than 700. And while there are a few exceptions to the requirement, we are convinced those exceptions will be very hard – and in some instances impossible — to establish.

Is 678 police – or 700 – enough? Of course not. MOBN! has long taken the position that Oakland needs at least 900 police, and a resource allocation study to show how many we need and how they should be assigned. But getting to that number will have to be for another day. Meanwhile, a reduction of 52 to 59 officers resulting from defeat of Measure Z will surely make things worse – likely reducing police staffing to a number below 600. Oakland voters should not make things worse.

Make Oakland Better Now! Supports Measure Z– a Public Safety Measure with No Tax Increase (I)



The most important local measure on this November’s ballot is Measure Z, “The 2014 Oakland Public Safety and Services Violence Prevention Act.” We are convinced that Measure Z fixes many of the problems with Measure Y, results in no new taxes, and will have a positive impact on public safety in Oakland. The measure will fund Oakland police officers who will focus on reducing shootings, violent crime, robberies, and homicides and increase support for the Ceasefire model and community policing in every neighborhood in Oakland. It will support proven community programs that support our at-risk youth and reduce crime, with an enhanced level of oversight and accountability. Accordingly, we urge Oaklanders to vote for Measure Z, and encourage them to attend the campaign kickoff this Saturday, September 13 at 10:00 a.m. at the Archway at Lake Merritt (On El Embarcadero between Lakeshore and Grand).

Screenshot 2014-09-11 at 11.06.42 AM

Over the next week, MOBN! will publish five posts on this critical subject. In the first three posts, we will explain why we support this measure. Then, we will publish a chart comparing Measure Y and Measure Z and showing the multiple areas in which Measure

Z improves on its predecessor. Finally, we will discuss a series of myths and misconceptions about Measure Y and Measure Z and show why those myths are wrong. To start, here is why we are supporting this measure:

Part One: Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z

Policing makes a difference: For more than five years, MOBN! has studied what does and does not have an impact on violent crime in cities. We know from the experiences in Los Angeles and New York that a felt police presence reduces violent crime. We know from the studies described by McCabe that communities reduce crime and improve police / community relations when police have sufficient staffing so that no more than 60% of officer patrol time is spent responding to calls, with the rest devoted to community problem solving.

Oakland has one of the highest per-capita rates of police calls for service in the United States. Officers have almost no time to do anything but respond to those calls, and many calls get responses days after they come in, if there is a response at all. So there certainly is not the amount of time for problem solving that allows every officer to be a problem solving officer. And while the experience of one city does not amount to a statistically valid analysis, we also know what happened when Oakland reduced its number of sworn officers: crime skyrocketed.

Local and national commentators with an ideological bent in opposition to the entire concept of police generally point to one study when they argue there is no relationship between police staffing and crime reduction: the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment more than 40 years ago. We will comment on that study some other time, but for now, it should suffice to say that the lead author of that study has stated repeatedly that his Kansas City study means no such thing.

The other argument we hear is that police are too expensive, their overtime is too high, or they take too high a proportion of the city budget. But there is no major difference between police salaries in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose or BART, and part of the OPD’s attrition problem is that other departments are hiring away Oakland’s officers; those facts and a basic understanding of how labor markets work suggest to us that there is nothing off the charts about Oakland’s police salary scale. And the solution to excessive overtime costs is to employ enough officers to eliminate the need for overtime.

Our estimate is that the police share of the Measure Z proceeds will be just short of $13 million dollars per year, which will fund between 52 and 59 police officers. We’ve spent enough time reviewing the city’s budget that we know that this money will not be there for police if the measure fails. And a further loss of officers in Oakland will be devastating to public safety.

Make Oakland Better Now! Asks The Candidates: “What Will You Do If You Are Elected?”

Thanks so much to all the Oaklanders who contributed their thoughts about questions to ask Oakland’s mayoral candidates.  Your ideas came in as blog comments, as e-mails and as Facebook posts, and they were great.

We couldn’t use every question, but we used many of them, and we tried to cover every subject you suggested.  The field of candidates is now set.  We’ve sent a questionnaire to all of the 15 Mayoral candidates and another to all of the 12 City Council candidates.  Unlike most of the questionnaires candidates fill out, our questionnaires and the responses are public.  We want the public, and the press, to know what the candidates say now on the issues that matter most to Oakland.

Here is our Mayoral candidate questionnaire:

And here’s the questionnaire we sent to City Council candidates:


We’ve asked all candidates to respond by Thursday, September 11, and we’ll get the responses published as quickly as we can once we receive them.  So stay tuned.
(Post title corrected August 26.)