Tonight’s Council Meetings: Budget, billboards, and OFCY

17 Nov

UPDATE: The budget workshop just ended, but you can follow the City Council meeting on Twitter #oakmtg. I finally gave in and joined Twitter, after months of being harassed, just so I could get in on the discussion there. You can find me @oaklandbecks

Tonight there will be not one but two Council meetings, and plenty will be covered. From 4-6pm, the Council will hold a special budget workshop, and from 7pm until late in the night, they’ll have a regular Council meeting. Here’s an explanation of some of the items that will be discussed.

Special Meeting: Budget Workshop

You probably know by now that Oakland is again facing a huge deficit – this time we’re $19 million in the hole. And for the past few weeks I’ve been extremely concerned about what would be cut, considering we’ve already cut services to below reasonable levels and I’m not sure how the city could function after further serious cuts. Well, somehow staff has come up with one-time gimmicks to avoid major cuts:

The City can come up with $6.62 million in one-time money by pillaging some funds that happen to have available balances, including money from an insurance settlement after the earthquake ($3.2 million), the telecommunications land use fund ($0.5 million) that can be used for park maintenance, the Parks and Recreation self-sustaining fund ($0.5 million), and Measure Q ($1.5 million), which can be used to maintain library services while reducing the Library’s General Fund appropriation to $9.06 million, the minimum permitted by Measure Q.

So that still leaves us with what, $12.5 million to come up with? Staff proposes raising another $11.6 million by selling off City property, like the Kaiser Convention Center and the Scotlan Convention Center. If, of course, they can find anyone to buy them.

The remaining deficit would be closed by forcing towing companies to start collecting our existing 18.5% parking tax on towed cars and leasing as yet unspecified City property to cell phone companies for them to put cell phone towers on.

Read the rest of V Smoothe’s post for further details on the proposal. It’s clear that this kind of budgeting isn’t sustainable and the Council does not have easy decisions to make tomorrow night. I don’t think they’ll love the staff proposal, but I’m not sure they’ll have any better ideas for budgeting.

Item 15: Clear Channel Outdoor – Billboard Agreement

This item was supposed to come to Council two weeks ago, but it was delayed, and I wrote about it then:

[The proposed billboard at the Bay Bridge entrance] doesn’t bring the City of Oakland any revenue. But it does bring revenue to the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), and it doesn’t hurt Oakland financially. In exchange for approving this agreement, Clear Channel will remove 16 billboards throughout the city (the full list can be found in the staff report). Apparently, it is fairly common for Clear Channel to get new billboard space in exchange for getting rid of other billboards, as this was done in 2003 and 2007, though the City did receive revenue out of both of those agreements.

UPDATE: The new proposal includes a one-time $400,00 payment from Clear Channel to the City and an ongoing annual payment of a yet to be determined percentage of revenue from the lease, which is probably why Kaplan held this over until this week’s meeting. Otherwise, the proposal appears to be the same as the one that was initially headed for Council two weeks ago.

Item 22: Oakland Fund For Children And Youth 2010-2013 Strategic Plan

The Oakland Fund for Children and Youth Planning and Oversight Committee is responsible for distributing funds to various youth programs, based on the funding from Kids First! (Measure K, Measure OO, and Measure D). Tonight, OFCY will be presenting its strategic plan for 2010-2013.

This item came before the Life Enrichment Committee last week and the most contentious part of the plan was the restriction on which school-based programs OFCY funds could be directed to. The request for proposals states, “High percentage of students (and/or # of students) on Free and Reduced lunch- students with a FRL at 49% or below are not eligible to apply.” This means that schools where less than 50% of students receive free or reduced lunches will be ineligible for OFCY funds for after-school programs.

Jean Quan really didn’t like this because she quickly realized that several schools in her district just barely missed the mark, and she argued that the difference between a school with 48% FRL and 50% FRL is not so great. She argued, quite reasonably, that this threshold was arbitrary and didn’t take into account the many children, especially from immigrant families, that could qualify for free lunches but didn’t apply. Staff responded that they needed to create some threshold because otherwise the money would be spread too thin. So Quan recommended changing the cut-off to 45%, and staff said they could do that.

But then Jane Brunner looked more closely at her chart and realized that a few schools in her district would still be left out (it seemed that she had little understanding of the situation going into the meeting). So she argued for the cut-off to be 40%. Staff again explained that this would stretch resources more and impact all of the programs, but the committee voted unanimously to move the item to Council with the change. Of course, that’s not reflected in the OFCY packet for tonight, but I’m sure it will come up.

The Rest of the Agenda…

I had hoped to have some time to write about the obesity and tobacco preventions program grant because this item was discussed in length at the Life Enrichment Committee and I’m guessing there will be lengthy discussions tonight. Unfortunately, I’m having some serious mouse issues and am unable to copy and paste and do lots of other things so it’s not going to be possible. Watch the Council meeting tonight to see what happens.

One Response to “Tonight’s Council Meetings: Budget, billboards, and OFCY”

  1. Patrick November 17, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    Our budget cannot be fixed by one-time gimmicks. Our problems are going to worsen when subprime and Alt-A loans from 2006 and 2007 begin to default in 2001 and 2012, and housing prices and tax revenues slide further. The current City Council is largely responsible for this debacle by allowing the runaway increase in not only # of empoyees, but also exhorbitant increases in employee pay, benefits and pensions. These Councilmembers (largely) created this problem and they need to fix it.

    More bonds are definitely not the answer. We all know that the CC is going to have to raise our ad valorem rate next year and the year after. More bonds? When wiil it stop? When our tax rate is over 2% and people walk away from their homes and nobody will buy them because of the outrageous tax rates and non-existent services?

    The time to fix these problems is NOW. These gimmicks are fine for unexpected surprises. But this situation is not a surprise for anyone who is paying attention or is not incompetent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: