Skip to content

North Oakland Senior Center

Council president Brunner asks community to support police funding through ballot measure

on December 18, 2009

Amid escalating burglaries and gun violence in North Oakland, City Council President and North Oakland representative Jane Brunner announced last night that a ballot measure is necessary to avoid laying off more than 100 city police.

Brunner addressed an audience of 40 people at a community meeting in the high-ceilinged auditorium of the North Oakland Senior Center. Residents had gathered to discuss issues including a November 30 double shooting near Dorsey’s Locker on Shattuck Avenue, marijuana grow houses, and the difference between robbery and burglary. In addressing her constituents, Brunner delivered a sobering proposition: The city needs more money to finance its police force.

“I hate to be the gloom and doom,” said Brunner, whose office had organized the joint meeting with North Oakland’s various neighborhood crime prevention groups and the Oakland Police Department.

Brunner did not disclose specifics about the measure, like its total full price tag to city taxpayers, but said it would appear on the June 2010 ballot.

With a new fiscal year beginning this summer, Oakland is projecting a deficit of $25 million. The council cut $100 million from its budget last year, laying off more than 100 city employees, freezing vacant positions and imposing furloughs across city programs. One thing it did not touch was the Oakland Police Department.

“I don’t think anyone wants to cut police officers in this city,” Brunner said.

But now the council must trim its budget even further and consider eliminating whole programs—closing libraries and senior centers, for example—or laying off police officers, Brunner said.

Several of those officers were in attendance last night, including Police Captain Anthony Toribio and all of North Oakland’s problem solving officers, who act as liaisons between OPD and the community. Concerned residents attending the meeting last night saw a PowerPoint presentation from OPD crime analyst Marie Mason that outlined some of the city’s perennial crime concerns—including thefts, robberies and homicides. They shared stories of their own brushes with violent and illicit behavior—many of which the police have failed to act on, they said.

A woman who had her window broken by a rock said the police did not answer her queries about arrests in which she had played a role. Another woman who keeps the OPD drug hotline on speed dial said a man often walks up and down her street “waving a gun.” She said her reports to the police and Brunner’s office have thus far gone unanswered.

The great majority of the city’s General Fund—tax revenue generated locally and not earmarked by state and federal mandates—finances the fire and police departments, Brunner said. Eighty-five percent of the city’s non-mandated money, about $400 million this year, goes to these public safety agencies, leaving just $60 million for all other city programs.

By laying off a police officer, it stands to reason that the city would recoup his salary to the General Fund, but Brunner explained that’s not the case. The terms of another voter-approved bond measure, Measure Y, make cost-cutting through police layoffs more complicated.

The council successfully floated Measure Y in 2004, but has been criticized—and the city sued—for the way it has been implemented. In order to recoup money from the police department for the General Fund, the city must lay off all Measure Y officers, Brunner said.

“We have to lay off 64 Measure Y officers to save a cent,” she said. The council is looking at laying off some 124 officers total, she said. How would the council avoid such an undesirable outcome?

“The only way is a public safety bond measure,” Brunner said.

Last night, community members also heard from Toribio that Oakland’s force is so overworked its “case solvability rate” is “poor, very poor.” Approximately 2,100 theft reports and 200 robbery reports across the city go uninvestigated each month, Toribio said. Even those numbers fail to capture the desperation of the crime and enforcement scenario, he said.

“The stats are not accurate,” Toribio said. “We [residents of Oakland] under-report crimes.”

Toribio outlined methods the police department has developed to improve the department’s solvability rate—training patrol officers to investigate, circulating tips about how residents can protect their home against robberies, and improving communication between officers and the community.

The department is overburdened and often cannot respond to residents’ concerns, Toribio said. More than one North Oakland resident last night expressed frustration over a lack of response from the police and even from their neighborhood problem solving officers—cops charged specifically with interacting with neighborhood groups to identify priority concerns.

Toribio said the police department is looking at cutting $7 million from its budget and is approving fewer overtime hours. The council, meanwhile, must decide how to cut $20 million from the $60 million of the General Fund that typically goes to expenses outside the police and fire departments, Brunner said.

“You’d have to cut whole programs,” Brunner said.

If voters don’t approve a new revenue measure in June 2010, and the city keeps its police officers, it could be at the expense of senior centers, libraries parks and median strips, she said, standing beneath a banner that read, “The progress of all through all, under the leadership of the wisest and best.”


  1. len raphael on December 18, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    unlike another local online report of the community meeting, you correctly quoted the devasting stat that 2,100 reported crimes PER MONTH go un-investigated by opd because they are overwhelmed (and i’d add poorly managed).

    If you’ve ever filed a burglary report here, you would angry to have heard the capt confirm that THOUSANDS of sets of fingerprints have piled up in opd storage because there is no staff to input and analyse them.

    As fiscally dysunctional as our mayor and many of our council members are, they are not so ditzy to propose a bond measure this time to cover the operating deficit. They are proposing a new parcel tax.

    Parcel taxes are assessed against all real property owners except for the many non-profit orgs that own real estate such as hospitals, low income housing, religious orgs, government.

    Parcel taxes are highly regressive because they are a fixed dollar amount per parcel, regardless of value of property, regardless of financial status of owner.

    eg The council proposes say 400/year parcel tax per single family house and per condo unit; 1,000/year per multi unit rental building. The single mom in East O trying to make house payment on her 120k home will have to pay the same 400/year as the new owner of the rockstar’s house in the hills that went for 2mill.

    landlords are generally allowed to pass thru property tax increases to their tennants.

    Not likely that voters will agree to any tax increase after they figure out that all it will get them is a police force that can’t even investigate 20,000 reported crimes each year.

    The proposal to impose still another parcel tax will hit at about the same time that OUSD will have to ask the voters for a bigger parcel tax to keep our schools running.

    To get the support needed to increase parcel taxes, the council and mayor will have to give all city employees including opd the choice between voluntary severe pay and benefit cuts or cuts via a bankruptcy proceeding a la Vallejo. Only the most effective, most important social programs can be continued. That means most of the programs that are not federally funded will end.

    Without drastic, permanent compensation cuts, even new parcel taxes will not prevent deficits when the unfunded retiree medical benefits and Calpers losses come due in a couple of years.

    The police parcel tax should be combined with an increased school tax.

    Or maybe the mayor and some of the council are real estate gurus who are predicting real estate and sales tax revenue is soon going to bounce back to the levels of three years ago.

    -len raphael

  2. Patrick M Mitchell on December 19, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Hear, hear, len! Another thing we agree upon 100%. It constantly amazes me that in a city where the average employee earns $770 a month, pay cuts and pension changes are never mentioned as a possibility. As I mentioned on, any parcel tax or bond measure will have to be preceded by a drastic change in compensation, benefits and work rules specifically for the police department and preferably for all city employees. As that is not going to happen, I’ve already decided to vote no. We don’t have a viable police force now; a 15% cut isn’t going to make much of a difference.

    And a bond measure? Seriously? I think every property owner in Oakland was wide-eyed when they opened their property tax bill this year. An increase from 1.33% to 1.41% with nary a by-the-way from the city. Thank goodness I, and every other property owner, have sacks of cash laying around to cover these unexpected tax increases. Assuming more debt will guarantee an even larger ad valorem increase every year for the forseeable future. Ab-so-lute-ly NOT!

  3. Patrick M Mitchell on December 19, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Damn. That should be $7700 a month!

  4. len raphael on December 19, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    I assume any new parcel taxes would have a low income resident exemption similar to that in Measure Y. That exemption excludes property owners whose annual income meets the Section 8 Housing definition of “very low income”.

    ie. if your income is enough to just barely cover your living costs and mortgage and prop taxes, you would not be exempt.

  5. Marleenlee on December 20, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    So at the budget meeting earlier this month, which jane missed, I made it very clear that given what a disaster measure y has been, no parcel tax should be considered. The only way I could support a revision of measure y is if the violence prevention funds were redirected to police in order to fund a settlement of my previous successful lawsuit. Oh, and I am set to go with a follow up suit for the cits total failure to budget for and schedule a police academy this year. Also, there were no final decisionsm made at the last council meeting re a new parcel tax. Hopefully the council will realize that this idea is nothing but an insult to the taxpayers who supported measure y and now know that city hall is full of liars! Stop threatening us with layoffs. Negotiate with opa for a reduction in pay like the rest of us in the real world are having to deal with.

  6. ralph on December 20, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Am I too understand that city council is threatening the old and poor with gloom and doom scenarios if they do not support a bond measure? And to get their support they will exempt them from the actual tax the rest of us will pay? Isn’t that special.

    Call me crazy but didn’t this same city council say when bending over backwards to appease those meddling kids w/$13MM of taxpayer money they did not want to pit the young against the old? What changed now?

    City council has a nasty habit of going to the well a little too often. They seem to think that the middle and upper classes will always be here to fund these little projects. The middle and upper classes have options. Tell me JB who is going to service the debt and contribute to your OO when the middle class is gone.

  7. ralph on December 20, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Ms. Brunner,
    May I suggest you cut whole programs. Voters need to understand the full impact of unfunded mandates such as OO. If you truly want a better Oakland you need to lead with real leadership. You need to make the hard decisions. Floating a bond issue is any easy decision. If the voters pass it, you get the money and save all the wasteful programs. If the voters don’t approve it, you turn around and blame the voters when you eliminate police services. That hardly qualifies as leadership. It is more typical of the coward who is a afraid of upsetting the electorate and losing an election. To paraphrase Coach Boone, JB, you make a decision but your support your decision. Rational people will understand.

    It seems silly that we need to speak to a 50 y.o. council member as if she is a teenager.

  8. Jinna on December 21, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I own a recently purchased home in East Oakland that is valued at approximately 200,000 dollars. My property taxes are approximately 3,800 dollars per year. They want me to pay an extra 400 dollars per year for the basic services that a city should be providing before any other services?? I can’t afford that, especially on top of the 1,000 dollar loss I already incurred this year as a result of being burglarized. I make 37,000 dollars per year. I’m thankful I have a job, but I don’t have 400 dollars to spare. Not right now.

    Police and fire services have to come before any other services. Cut funding for medians. Cut funding for youth services (sorry kids). Cut funding for senior centers (sorry folks). Cut arts festivals. Cut libraries. Cut redevelopment. CUT CITY SALARIES.

    It’s not pretty, but you can’t pretend to run a normal city — you know, with things like libraries, youth centers, arts festivals — when the city is BURNING DOWN AROUND YOU.

    You have to save the city first.

  9. Bondngagged on December 21, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Folks, regardless of what the Council Prez says, the City wouldn’t/couldn’t issue bonds to pay for more police services. Bonds, a municipal version of a home mortgage, are generally used for capital purposes — buildings, pipelines, roadways, etc. What is being discussed here is a simple parcel tax, such as the one currently levied for library services.

  10. RobinHood on December 21, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Will paying higher taxes lessen my chances of being muggged or my home being burglarized? No, but the crime report will have more detail…

  11. John Grennan on December 21, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    An earlier version of this story referred to a “bond measure.” After contacting Council President Brunner’s office, we’ve replaced the term here with the more correct “ballot measure.”

    John Grennan, Oakland North Staff

  12. […] damage crimes; it has a backlog of 2500 domestic violence crimes it can’t investigate, it fails to investigate 2,100 theft reports and 200 robbery reports per month, and can’t even deal with people walking up and down residential streets waving […]

  13. Trix on December 31, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Chiming in waaaay late here — but what happened to all the other recent measures that I’m still paying on my property taxes that are for that were for more police officers?

    Sure, let’s just lay another parcel tax on homeowners — like we all have money to spare in this economy. Every time there is an election the property taxes go up for this measure or that – but I never see any discernible changes from all the extra money I am paying.

    Hey I know, how about a tax on RENTERS? It’s not homeowners who are out there committing all the crimes.

  14. […] Even though Batts wants more officers for Oakland, there’s a chance he’ll have to make due with even fewer. The city’s budget problems for 2010 may undermine the departments’ ability to perform adequately, particularly if the city is unable to maintain the current number of on-duty officers. Three weeks ago, City Council President Jane Brunner’s predicted the OPD cold lose more than 100 officers unless the city’s voters pass an emergency tax measure. […]

Oakland North welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Oakland North assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top