City council approves November special election
on July 6, 2011
The Oakland City Council heard a report from Chief of Police Anthony Batts about a reorganization of the city’s police department and approved a mail ballot-only special election for November 15 at the city council meeting Tuesday night in downtown Oakland. Now it just needs to be determined what will be on the ballot. While an $80 parcel tax supported by Mayor Jean Quan will go before the voters, it has not been determined whether the ballot would also include choices for a new city attorney.
The council voted 7-1 to approve the special election, with Libby Schaaf (District 4) opposing, after five community members spoke in favor of it. After the vote, Quan noted that while the election will cost the city $700,000 to run, passing the parcel tax measure will bring in $55 million to the city. Quan said the parcel tax is necessary to maintain police staffing levels, park service and senior centers.
“This will give us the flexibility to protect our infrastructure of the city during this recession,” Quan said of the tax. “We’ve lost nearly $30 million in property taxes because of the real estate crisis. We need some time to get back up without endangering our really core services.”
The council now has a few weeks to decide if the Nov. 15 election will include candidates for city attorney. Former city attorney John Russo resigned in June to become Alameda’s city manager, and his former chief assistant, Barbara Parker has been acting city attorney.
The city council has 60 days from Russo’s departure to either agree on someone to appoint, or call a special election. If the council does not appoint a new city attorney at the end of the 60-day period, which expires in August, it has 120 days to hold a special election for the position. But the city clerk requires ballot measures for a candidate election to be filed 117 days before the election is held, in effect giving the council until the July 19 council meeting to decide if the selection of a new city attorney will appear on the ballot.
Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, Police Chief Batts delivered a report to the council about a reorganization of the police department that begins July 9. Batts said the city’s budget crisis and shrinking resources, along with a need to improve community policing, were important factors in the reorganization.
The department will move from having three police service areas to two bureaus, West and East. Batts said department homicide investigators handle up to four times as many cases as the state average. “The bottom line is they’re in burnout,” he said. Homicide, robbery and fugitive crimes will be collapsed together into a new major crimes division, and teams of police will then investigate homicides, rather than having the homicide investigators handle the cases alone.
Schaaf raised concerns about the switch from three service areas to two bureaus. “Resources that used to be fairly dedicated to the central part of Oakland may be pulled to West and East Oakland,” she said. Schaaf requested the tracking of officers in order to learn where they spent their time and a report within six months, which Batts said was possible. Batts said “beat integrity” is an important part of the reorganization, but “if there is a need in the city, officers will go to assist and back up.”
Batts is scheduled to talk more about the reorganization at 11 a.m. today in downtown Oakland. Oakland North will continue to cover this story.
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