City council debates funding for violence prevention programs
on January 18, 2012
Violence prevention programs funded by Measure Y are working, according to a report presented at the Oakland City Council meeting on Tuesday night. But not well enough, councilmembers and speakers from the public responded.
“We can not ignore that we have had an increase in violent crime,” said councilmember Desley Brooks (District 6), “and so we can not continue to do the same thing the same way and expect that it’s going to be a different result. And there lies the problem—we continue to do what we’ve always done.”
The council approved a three-year funding cycle for Measure Y—the anti-violence, voter-approved initiative that provides $19 million annually for violence prevention programs, and police and fire services—that will extend through 2015, the final year of the initiative. The report estimated the annual revenue for those years will be about $22 million, which would then provide about $4 million to fire services, more than $11 million for police and about $6 million for violence prevention programs centered around youth.
Tuesday’s discussion centered around authorizing funding for the violence prevention program aspect of Measure Y, though the opportunity to talk about the initiative allowed those present to criticize all aspects of it. Councilmembers criticized Mayor Jean Quan for not better explaining her “100 Block” initiative, which Quan has said will concentrate police efforts on the 100 blocks in Oakland where 90 percent of the violent crime occurs. Supporters of Occupy Oakland railed against the Oakland Police Department for alleged brutality. And dozens of public speakers asked the council to spare from cuts the position of a re-entry specialist who would help the formerly incarcerated transition back into society.
The council approved a resolution to fund Measure Y that struck any reference to the mayor’s initiative. Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Brooks were especially critical of the plan, which they said hadn’t been properly vetted by the council. Quan, who usually attends city council meetings though she is not required to do so, was not present at the meeting Tuesday night.
“I don’t know what the 100 blocks are, I don’t know what the plan is,” Brooks said. “The last time I saw the mayor on the news talking about the 100 blocks, she said it was a concept. I have no clue what this is.”
Councilmembers criticized the Measure Y report, which was presented by Sara Bedford of the city’s department of human services for not including more statistics on just how the initiative is helping to reduce violent crime in Oakland. While the report noted that violent crime across the board has decreased since the last three-year funding cycle, gun violence is on the rise. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (At-large) called gun violence “our crisis” and noted that there is no city-wide strategy to combat the problem, or public safety in general, and advocated more of an effort to get illegal guns off the street.
“How does this Measure Y money fit in to a bigger strategy is missing, and that’s specifically the fault of people working on Measure Y,” Kaplan said. “The question is really ‘Where is the big picture strategy?’”
Supporters of Occupy Oakland also used the opportunity to talk about dealing with the OPD, which they characterized as violent. Two people were arrested at an Occupy-supported rally against police brutality on Saturday night in the latest clash between protesters and police. “Giving more money to the police department to decrease crime or decrease violence is not working,” said Oakland resident Jessica Hollie, an Occupy supporter. “They are in effect the ones increasing crime and increasing violence and inciting riots. That’s exactly what’s happening now.”
In other business Tuesday night, the council approved spending $1.3 million in city funds on fixing up the abandoned 16th Street train station project. After the redevelopment agency was disbanded, the city had until February 1 to decide if it wanted to spend the money in order to receive a matching grant of $1.3 million.
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