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Measure NN fails — no new money for Oakland police

on November 4, 2008

Nov. 5 – Measure NN, which would have increased taxes to expand the city’s police force, won 54 percent of the vote, but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

Measure NN, also known as the 2008 Oakland Police Services Expansion Measure, would have added 105 police officers and 75 police service technicians to the force over the course of three years. It would have also provided for a new data management system that compiles and analyzes crime statistics.

To pay for these additions, the measure proposed a tax on all residential and non-residential properties. An owner of a single-family residential property, for example, would have payed $106 in taxes for the first year the measure is in effect, $177 for the second year, and $276 thereafter. There was no expiration date specified for the tax.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums supported the measure, saying that the tax was necessary to maintain a sufficiently sized police force. Other supporters of the measure included Councilwoman Jane Brunner and Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker.

“Oakland has experienced unacceptable rates of crime and violence that affects families, businesses, and the city’s overall quality of life,” read the ballot argument in favor of the measure. “Preventing violence and ensuring public safety requires that police services be adequately staffed.”

Opponents said that increased taxes were not the solution for Oakland’s public safety crisis. In the ballot argument against the measure, opponents wrote “City Hall needs to clean its own house before taxing yours. Tax hikes are business as usual, not leadership.” Members of neighborhood anti-crime groups signed the argument; in addition, Councilmembers Ignacio de la Fuente and Desley Brooks expressed opposition to the measure.

Much of the debate over Measure NN centered on another anti-crime initiative, Measure Y, which was passed four years ago. Measure Y increased funding for the Oakland Police Department, Oakland Fire Department and violence prevention services such as gang intervention and youth outreach programs. It costs almost $20 million per year, paid for by Oakland taxpayers in the form of parcel taxes and increased parking surcharges.

Although Measure Y passed in 2004, OPD has not yet reached the goal of 803 police officers set forth by the measure. That goal is expected to be reached on Nov. 13, when a new group of officers graduate from the police academy.

Supporters of Measure NN said that the initiative’s parcel tax was necessary to maintain the police force sized mandated by Measure Y.

“I believe we need Measure NN to sustain the 803 [police officers] and meet our ongoing needs,” said Dellums last week. “It would be extremely difficult to maintain the integrity of that without Measure NN.”

But opponents said they were wary of the new initiative due to the delay of fulfilling Measure Y. In his Sept. 19 article, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson wrote, “In July, I said I could not support such a tax given the past — and present — performance of city government. It took Oakland four years to fulfill a 2004 bond measure plan to hire 63 more police officers — and it took heavy public pressure to make that happen.”

Johnson continued, “Oakland needs more police. No doubt about it. And it’s too bad that the lack of credibility in City Hall may kill it.”||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

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