A discussion about Measure Y funds developed into a debate about Mayor Jean Quan’s “100 block” public safety plan at the Oakland City Council meeting Tuesday night.
Quan isn’t required to attend city council meetings, but she happened to have just arrived when councilmembers were discussing the need for transparency concerning her public safety plan, which began in October and focuses on crime prevention within the 100 blocks in Oakland where most of the city’s violent crime occurs.
But councilmembers questioned whether the plan was moving too many police officers off the streets in other parts of Oakland, leaving those areas more vulnerable to crime. “The reality is, we’ve been patient here, waiting for a report on the so-called ‘100 blocks,’” Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5) said. “But the reality is, it’s getting worse and worse and we don’t know what’s happening.”
Councilmembers were discussing an audit and status report on Measure Y, the Violence Prevention and Public Safety Act of 2004. Councilmember Jane Brunner (District 1) was responding to a comment made by Oakland resident Jim Dexter during the public comment period on whether Measure Y money was being spent correctly after a police department reorganization last fall. Brunner called for more transparency concerning just how Measure Y funds were being spent, and then brought up Quan’s 100 block plan.
“There is a perception out there, real or not real, that a lot of the police force is being taken from some neighborhoods to the 100 blocks,” Brunner said. “And unless we have this conversation among ourselves, and really know, and by not putting that out, it doesn’t feel like we’re really informed or participating.”
Brunner called for the 100 block plan to go before the public safety committee, mentioning that Councilmember Patricia Kernighan, who chairs the committee, has been asking to review the plan as well.
When Kernighan said she had actually been asking for a review of the entire city-wide public safety plan, De La Fuente quickly added, “I’ve been asking too.” He said he’s “running out of patience.”
“Some of us don’t even know where the 100 blocks are, and I’m sure the public knows less,” De La Fuente said, turning to Kernighan. “At some point, madam chair of public safety, we need to know when this item is coming back to public safety. I think the reality is the councilmembers are getting quite a bit of pressure from our constituents.”
City Administrator Deanna Santana responded that the mayor’s revised comprehensive public safety plan will go before the public safety committee at the end of April. Councilmember Desley Brooks (District 6) responded that was too late. “It should not come at the end of April, but at the beginning of April, because this is something that has been put out as a concept, as a strategy, as a plan, I don’t know what it is,” Brooks said. “But I know it needs to come before this body for us to bless it.”
Quan responded that the council had already been discussing reorganizing the police force because of a rising murder rate during her the end of her tenure as a city councilmember in 2010. Quan said her staff reviewed geographical data on maps that showed where most of the violent crime in the city was happening, and that after 34 officers of the 80 officers laid off in the summer of 2010 were rehired last summer, they were assigned to those high crime areas.
Quan said those 100 blocks have consistently been the areas in the city with the highest crime rates for the last decade. She said the plan, which she began to roll out during the summer of 2011, is about using added resources to attack a problem, not moving officers from one part of the city where they’re already needed.
“It is not about taking resources away from anyone, but when we had the opportunity to have additional resources, to put them where there was the most violence,” she said. “People at that time felt the high rates of murders was something we really needed to focus on.”
Kernighan noted that since there is no public safety meeting at the beginning of April, the committee would have to wait to discuss the mayor’s public safety plan until its next meeting on April 24.
The council also voted Councilmember Nancy Nadel (District 3) as the city’s vice mayor, replacing Brooks. Nadel has said she will not run for re-election in 2012. “I intend to serve actively in my final year and cause lots of trouble,” Nadel said.