You Tell Us: We can’t afford to say no on Measure BB

According to Council President Jane Brunner, if Measure BB on the November ballot is defeated, Oakland will have to lay off 122 police officers.  Added to the 80 that were fired this summer, the police force would be reduced by a total of 202 cops, or nearly 25 percent.  If BB passes, Ms. Brunner says the city could limit the number of cuts to 27 and save 95 positions.

In an Oakland JOBS PAC survey of 500 likely Oakland voters completed on August 24, 45 percent of the respondents said they will support BB, while 40 percent said they will not. Since BB requires a two-thirds vote, these results do not bode well for passing Measure BB.

There are many reasons for these poll results, including the bad economy, foreclosures, job losses, etc.  But the most telling reason in the poll was that 53 percent of the voters believe that even if BB and other tax measures pass, Oakland’s deficits will continue to grow.  Voters said they want “new leadership who will look at alternatives to taxes, such as growing Oakland’s economic base, pension reform, and structural changes in the way the city does business.”

The Oakland JOBS PAC shares the concerns of the voters.  We too look forward to new leadership, new ideas, and better management of our city.  Meanwhile, we believe that Oakland cannot afford to reduce its police force by another 122 cops.  Without glee or fanfare, we encourage voters to pass BB.

Let it be clear that we understand and empathize with voter anger and frustration. Measure Y was intended to add cops. The “fix” in Measure BB keeps the tax, and does not add cops. It merely reduces the number that would be laid off.  Many people also cite a credibility problem caused by the fancy footwork performed by city leaders, who claimed that under Measure Y they only needed to budget for cops, they were not required to actually hire them.  Lastly, we recognize the public’s concern that police officers don’t contribute to their pensions, as do other city employees.

Despite these very legitimate concerns, we still must ask, can Oakland afford to lose 122 more cops?

Here is the choice we see for Oakland voters. On November 2, you can vote no on Measure BB because of your distrust of city leaders, your antipathy towards taxes and your frustration about police pensions.  The result will likely be the loss of 122 more cops.

Or, you can vote yes on BB to “fix” Measure Y, keep your tax liability the same as it has been over the past several years, and save 95 cops from the chopping block.

In a city as crime-challenged as Oakland, it is unthinkable that we would reduce the police force by 25 percent.  Yes, we need change and we need new leadership, but in the meantime we need to be safe.

We can’t afford to say no to Measure BB.

Gregory McConnell

Executive Director, Oakland JOBS PAC

The Oakland JOBS PAC is an independent political action committee that takes positions on candidates for office and significant ballot measures.

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You Tell Us is Oakland North’s new community Op-Ed page, featuring opinion pieces submitted by readers on Oakland-related topics. Have something to say? Send essays of 500-1,000 words to staff@oaklandnorth.net. We’d love to hear from you!

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Filed under: Op-Ed

9 Comments

  1. – Oakland police receive an average $188k salary and benefits (without any pension contribution.
    – Only 240 of the 680 police officers actually patrol the city.

    80% of the city budget goes to police and fire departments, and 10% services current debt.

    We all respect the service and sacrifice of our first responders – full stop.

    We also know that for our city to function properly our costs and our revenue must be aligned. The Oakland police department rightly fights for its members. However, we citizens are equally responsible for demanding a rational and equitable distribution of tax dollars. Measure BB is not a solution.

    I’m saying no until the city proposes a real solution for our city budget.

  2. You neglect to mention that the City has been sued THREE TIMES over its mismanagement of Measure Y, and that an Alameda County Superior Court ruled in 2009 that the City illegally spent millions of Measure Y funds, and failed to perform the required audits. The City has no credibility left. The amount of money at issue is approximately $15 million in misspent funds, and the City has no plans for how it is going to pay it back. This “fix” is just a bailout for the City’s past illegal activities.

    You also neglect to mention that fix or no fix, the City is refusing to conduct any new police academies, and has refused since the end of 2008, which means we are going to be losing 50 officers a year EVEN WITHOUT LAYOFFS.

    We need to send a strong message to City Hall that taxpayers are fed up and tired of bailing out the City. At some point, you have to stop giving the drug addict its “fix.” Keeping Measure Y as it is provides a strong incentive to the City to fund the police force at the levels that were originally promised. The threat of more layoffs is a scare tactic. The City has lied to us and threatened us so many times, we’re sick of it.

    If we reject BB, the police union will have a true incentive to come back to the bargaining table and grant the necessary concessions. So will the other unions. There needs to be a complete overhaul of how the City conducts its business, and it requires cutbacks from employee unions and non-profits receiving “grants” of City money, and accountability, which right now, we just don’t have. Measure BB is just a band-aid. It doesn’t give us the real reform we need; it doesn’t give us the police force we were promised; it doesn’t make up for the past promises that were broken. VOTE NO! For more info, check out my blog.
    Marleen Sacks

  3. Dare

    For a man who lives in Blackhawk, Mr. McConnell sure knows a lot about what us lowly Oaktowners need. We should feel just as free to insert ourselves into the problems of the community where he lives or otherwise comment on what his hometown can or cannot afford to do. Mr. McConnell should add a disclaimer that as a non-Oakland resident he won’t be paying a penny if this measure is approved.

  4. Measure BB removes the one clause in Measure Y that was supposed to guarantee a minimum number of police. Isn’t it obvious that City Hall intends to reduce police staffing no matter what? If you share City Hall’s goal, of course you support its Measure BB. But if you refuse to pay more for less, you vote against BB.

  5. gregory mcconnell

    I fully respect and appreciate the comments from people who disagree with passing Measure BB, personal attacks notwithstanding. I understand Ms Sacks position and respect the work she has done to bring attention to Measure Y failures. The problem remains, however, that residents, visitors and businesses in Oakland, including my own, need protection and we don’t think we can risk laying off 122 more cops while we wait to create a better government under new leadership. Voters will decide the issue and we will see what happens.

  6. Dare

    Mr. McConnell,

    If Measure BB passes and City leaders actually keep their promise, this time, your business stands to benefit. Yet as a non-Oakland resident you would pay zero. Frankly I find your position to be diminished by your failure to disclose this fact. It’s always so much easier to spend when it’s someone else’s money.

  7. GC, you lost credibility for all those years you kept quiet but knew darn well the city couldn’t afford the wages and benefits it was handing out to every employee. Heck, it even raised retirement benefits retroactively by about a third around 2003.

    Now you want residents to pay some of the highest property taxes in California for what is just a stop gap measure.

    360 bucks a day really is a burden for many oakland owners and their tennants. But it’s nothing compared to the +1,000 increase needed to fund those retirement benefits and keep OUSD out of bankruptcy again.

    When you and other business leaders tell the politicians to come up with a plan that addresses the over billion dollar retirement problems without mortgaging or selling every last city asset, then residents will join with you demanding change.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  8. Charles

    What was the breakdown of measure y funds? As I remember it, Oakland Fire received a large chunk, then groups like Youth Uprising got a huge chunk…which left about 6 million for police (out of 20-22 million original) That 6 million was supposed to pay for 63 officer and Sergeant positions, including training, vehicles and additional equipment…Uhhh. Yeah, I am pretty sure that would cost way more than 6 million. Maybe that is why it didn’t work.

    Look at the new parcel tax Quan does but does not want for the city (whatever). Its $360 dollars for Police……and what ever else the city council wants to spend it on (additional pet projects).

    How about this. Start a measure that funds the police…only.

    Until then, I will vote yes on the measures. Oakland needs all the help it can get. A safe neighborhood has higher property values (which help me) and those values produce more revenue for the city which will help us dig ourselves out of this hole (but only if we vote out the council.

  9. Resident

    It is a shame that most commenters can not see the forest for the trees. Yes, prior funds were misspent. Yes, the city has a budget problem. But this measure is not about the city’s inability to budget. It is about finding a dedicated funding stream for community officers, which have proven effective. Yes on BB.

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