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Election results: All Oakland city ballot measures fail

on November 15, 2011

All three Oakland city ballot measures failed to pass in a special election held today. Of a total of 196, 851 registered voters, only 49,058 (24.92 percent) cast a ballot.

The first measure on the ballot, Measure H, would have changed the city attorney’s position from an elected one to one appointed by city council members. It would have also allowed council members to decide the attorney’s salary without restrictions imposed by a previous measure passed in 1998.

An overwhelming majority of voters, 73.11 percent, voted against it.

Proponents of the measure had argued that it would allow the city to choose the best attorney for the job, instead of the best politician, and that it would free the office from influence by groups who funded the political campaign for the attorney. Opponents argued that it would bind the city attorney to the city council, which would have the authority to hire or fire him or her at will. They felt that it was a direct attempt by the council to bring in an attorney who could be manipulated by the council, especially since John Russo—Oakland’s previous city attorney and the only one so far who has been elected to the office—had clashed with the council on matters of policy.

Measure I would have imposed an $80 dollar parcel tax on single family homes, to be collected for five years until the 2016-17 fiscal year. Apartment owners would have paid $54.66, and would have the option of transferring half the cost to the tenant. Tenants living in non-affordable housing would have paid half the tax, and those with low incomes would have been exempt. Owners of commercial properties would have paid the tax based on the property’s size.

Voters rejected the measure by 62.35 percent.

Supporters of the tax had argued that it would have allowed the city to raise much-needed revenue in a down economy when the city is facing a massive budget crisis. The majority of funds raised by the tax would have been slated for public safety items such as police and fire services, which have faced major cuts in the last few years because of the tight budget.

Opponents argued that the city of Oakland is already charging too many taxes, and the tax would merely be a temporary solution to a long-term problem. They also claimed that the lack of specificity in the measure’s wording about where the money would be spent would have given the council members control over its allocation once the measure had passed.

The final measure on the ballot, Measure J, would have allowed the city to extend the deadline for fully funding the Police and Fire Retirement System beyond 2026. This is a fund set up for employees of the police and fire departments, which enables them to receive pensions for life. The city needs to deposit $494 million into the fund by 2026 in order for it to be fully funded.

If the deadline had been extended, the city’s annual payments would have reduced by $3 million dollars at least, depending on the number of years of the extension. Supporters also said that it would make the city more financially stable.

But opponents saw it as a masked attempt to increase the city’s taxes and to fund the tax beyond the year 2026, and as an opportunity for the city to issue bonds for the same reason.

Of all three measures, Measure J came the closest to passing, with 46.77 percent of voters voting for it and 53.23 percent voting against.

You can see our infographic on the three ballot measures here.


  1. david williams on November 15, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    25% of the voters say no to all measures on a special election that cost 1 million dollars just to have. and this on the same day we learn that oakland has paid out 57 million to settle police abuse cases over the last decade.

    pathetic and no end in sight

  2. Derek Bolander on November 16, 2011 at 9:04 am

    This is great news. It shows that Oaklanders are aligning with a unifying opinion against our politicians. Our next step needs to be unseating Mayor Quan from office. We can then refocus our energy on rebuilding this great city.

  3. Chris Vernon on November 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Incredibly shortsighted. As city services continue to disappear into the sunset, what will those who voted no on I and J have to say?

    Need a police officer? Good luck. House burning down? Oh well.

    Want to go to the library?, have a pothole filled?, a dangerous street tree pruned?, you get the idea….

    The perceived battle with Oakland politicians is cutting off our nose to spite our face.

    Can’t afford $80 a year? – you get what you pay for, you DON’T get what you don’t pay for.

    • Barbara on November 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      Sorry but I disagree with your comment. We are all having hard times in this economy and have to prioritize where we spend our money. The city of Oakland will have to do the same. Maybe if they had been planning ahead for financial hard times, they would not be in the position they are now in. They were especially short-sighted by not funding the pension plans on a regular basis. The sooner they tighten their belt and make hard choices, the sooner they will begin to see daylight.

      • david williams on November 16, 2011 at 9:30 pm

        not that it matters, but i’ve been living and working in oakland for 20 years… can’t count all the increases i’ve voted for… need a police officer, house burning down, library, pothole, street tree, oh please. even if i could, i would not choose to give 80$ to oakland again and again and watch them waste it on settlements, off year elections, and police actions. what’s your tipping point?

    • MarleenLee on November 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Um, Chris, do you not remember Measure Y? We agreed to tax ourselves to the tune of $90 per year for 63 additional police officers. Did we get them? Uh, no. Instead, police staffing went DOWN, not up. Out of six years since we’ve had Measure Y, we had the promised staffing for less than six months. So if we pay extra taxes so that we get a police officer to come when we call, and then we still don’t that police officer, your argument falls flat. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…ain’t gonna happen.

  4. david williams on November 17, 2011 at 7:37 am

    heads in the sand at the council meeting — even after approving yet another police brutality case

    “The results are out, aren’t we going to address them?” she said. The councilmembers remained silent. Shortly afterward, the city clerk, LaTonda Simmons, read the election results: 73.4 percent voted “no” on Measure H, 62.3 percent voted “no” on Measure I, and 53.2 percent voted “no” on Measure J.

    Typically council meetings are adjourned with a dedication to an Oakland citizen who recently died. On this ocassion, Councilemember Nancy Nadel (District 3) decided to honor the failing ballot measures.


    “In loving memory of Measures H, J, and I,” she said, as some attendees burst into laughter. A few minutes later, all the councilmembers left the chambers without commenting on the election results.

    (i rest my case)

  5. Leonard Raphael on November 18, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Chris, what we the voters have said is that they won’t be fooled again by politicians who want to make them pay for the politicians’ mistakes of the last 12 years which will allow Oakland city employees to retire in comfort while the city services starve.

    Ebonics Math I as taught by Mayor Quan:

    Ok voters, lets switch to the calculator app on our phones for this really difficult math problem:

    Measure I was designed to raise 11Mil/year for five years. The projected deficit for the indefinite future is 74Mil/year according to the City’s own projections.

    Voters, how much money will Measure I provide for cops, road repair, and library services?

    11Mill/year – 74Mill/year = -63Mill/year

    Uh, teacher, what’s a negative budget number mean?

    -len raphael, cpa

  6. fred on November 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Here’s how to get Oakland back on its feet:

    1. Evict the Oakland Perpetual Protesters from Snow Park, Lake Merritt and anywhere else they set up camp illegally. The OPP does not represent the occupy movement as a whole or even the concept of economic justice. They are only hurting Oakland and its citizens. Enough is enough.
    2. Evict Jean Quan and most of the City Council from office.
    3. Fire all corrupt officials in the city government.
    4. Cut EVERYTHING to the bone except police, fire and city maintenance.
    5. Eliminate all targeted parcel taxes and other pet project fees. Get Oakland’s overall tax structure in line with other similar cities in the area.
    6. Increase investment in city infrastructure that will help make Oakland a decent place to live and work.

    Oakland has an opportunity to be a jewel of a city. It has possibly the best location in one of the best places on earth to live. It could be a shining example of a diverse culture working and living together and prospering. It is time to wipe out the past and move forward. Fire Jean Quan and the city council and send a strong message that status quo won’t cut it any more.

  7. Don Superior on November 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    I agree with fred – also I would like to add:
    7. CUT City administration salaries and perks (bonuses, expensive office furnishings, high turnover of equipment not necessary to perform job). Pay most City administrators PER HOUR wages instead of salaries (you won’t believe how abusive they are with that).
    8. Prioritize workers who perform services directly; that cuts in service personnel be mirrored with cuts in administration. No more laying off a 15.00 hour worker while hiring a $6,000.00 month desk rider. If you don’t have people to administrate, then you don’t need to be there wasting our money.
    9. Have a citizen’s committee to oversee and approve / reject HR proposals. They can free up the City to get rid of overpaid workers in HR and administration who because they are making the decisions at this time are preserving themselves over all others.
    9. Stop the City form investing in losing projects, and put that money somewhere beneficial. Hundreds of millions of dollars going into the Colosseum, which, btw is a privately owned business, is ridiculous – all so City administrators can have free skyboxes on our dime?
    10. Remove salaries from City Council – it hasn’t helped. It was to help them free up time to dedicate to the City Council jobs but all that free time hasn’t helped accomplished anything -the City has been going downhill ever since they started getting paid – and now they are getting paid increases even after they have laid off 90% of the workers.
    11. How about proposing a complete overhaul of the “budget” system? Ask us if we would agree to that. take all the money of all budgets and re-allocate them so that we have a balanced financial sheet. There are fat budgets leaking over and others that are failing of famine – lets do a re-boot and allocate these funds batter.

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