Don Perata – A Democrat using Republican talking points

9 Apr

Continuing my series on mayoral candidate blogging, today I’ll be looking at Don Perata’s blog. Before I get into the content, I have to point out that Perata is either courageous or stupid – he’s allowing comments on his blog. Kerry Hamill, who ran for Council against Rebecca Kaplan in 2008, did the same thing for a short time but soon disabled them when negative comments started flowing in. Any guesses to how long before Perata disables comments on his blog?

There have only been a handful of blog posts posted so far. The first ones were about the campaign, but the last four have been about policy issues. Two of the posts were about prison issues – recidivism and summary parole. Those are important issues, of course, but there’s much more that can be done at the state level about them. One of the two Oakland posts was about the most recent parking debacle, when the City was found to be ticketing cars in low-income areas but not ticketing them in the hills for the same violation. Can you guess where Perata stood on that?

His last policy post was the most interesting. It focused on the City budget and the proposal to place two parcel tax measures on the November ballot:

Mayor Dellums’ office threatened that this was the only way to avoid cutbacks to police and fire-services.

The only way? This response is typical of Oakland’s stagnant city government. It’s a ballot cop-out to subsidize city inefficiency. There are always other ways.

I’m not sure there are many who would disagree about city inefficiencies, and so far the Council (save for a couple of members) and Mayor Dellums have been short of ideas for how to avoid huge public safety cut backs so I’m open to hearing new ideas.

Sadly, what follows are not new ideas:

To start, the City Council could have put a measure on the June ballot asking Oakland voters to retain the half-cent tax we already pay but one that the state will rescind in July.

Sales tax in Oakland is already way too high. I’m not anti-tax, but a sales tax is a measure of last resort – it is incredibly regressive and does nothing to help struggling small businesses in Oakland. I’d prefer a parcel tax over a sales tax measure any day (and for those of you who are going to comment that I’m a renter so I wouldn’t have to pay a parcel tax, my apartment isn’t rent controlled and I’m sure my rent will be raised if any parcel taxes pass).

But worse is that Perata says the Council should have put this measure on the June ballot. Yes, that’s the June ballot that the City does not have to pay for because there are no Oakland races on it due to instant runoff voting pushing all of the City elections to November. To close the budget gap, Perata is proposing wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on paying for the June election to pass a regressive tax.

Moving on, Perata then complains about the lack of responsiveness from City Hall, which I can sympathize with:

It’s no surprise then that my office isn’t getting a straight answer from City Hall on how much the city’s 33 boards and commissions are costing Oakland’s taxpayers. The City Clerk’s office claims that the Mayor’s office is responsible. The Mayor’s office has no idea how much is being spent and is not sure that records even exist.

I’m sure there’s some waste in the boards and commissions (many of them never have quorum so I’m not sure why we keep them around, but that’s another blog post). But bringing this up in a post on the budget is at best a distraction and at worst similar to the talking points Republicans use about the state budget. Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor is centered around government waste and the idea that she can fix the state budget mess by trimming the fat, while at the same time making no cuts to education and cutting taxes.

Perata’s blog post doesn’t go that far, but it heads in that direction:

Every dollar should be accounted for before raising taxes. Oakland’s voters are among the most generous in the state. Their pockets have been tapped again and again, and they’ve been failed again and again by the city government. City Hall should be making serious political cuts before cutting city services.

Basically everyone agrees that there’s waste in Oakland government, and yes, I’d like to see that fixed, but it’s dangerous to suggest that we can fix our budget problem by making “political cuts.” We need long-term budget solutions for this City that are more about policy than politics. We need new revenue streams and, likely, some serious cuts that are beyond “political.”

After serving for so long as head of the State Senate, I would have expected more from Perata than regurgitating the Republican talking points that he fought against for so many years. We already have a Green Party Tea Partier in the mayoral race (or as a friend commented, a Green Tea Partier) – do we really need a Democrat using Republican talking points? I don’t think so.

17 Responses to “Don Perata – A Democrat using Republican talking points”

  1. MarleenLee April 9, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    I don’t think highlighting government waste and inefficiency should be considered partisan issues. I would sincerely hope that both Republicans and Democrats are equally opposed to the type of waste and inefficiency that have been going on in Oakland. And coming out against a new parcel tax, given the failures, waste and illegalities of Measure Y, would seem like a no-brainer, not a partisan position. Of course, I’d like for Mr. Perata to publicly acknowledge the bigger reasons for Oakand’s budget crisis, and the need to fix those (inflated salaries, benefits and pensions).

    • Becks April 9, 2010 at 10:54 am #

      As I stated in my post, I do believe there is government waste and that waste is a problem. But I think it is incredibly foolish or dishonest to make it seem like we can solve our budget crisis just by cutting the waste and inefficiencies.

  2. Andy K April 9, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    Well, Perata is going after the “conservative” vote in Oakland. He will say whatever it takes to get these votes.

    Records are much more important than what people say trying to get elected.

  3. Naomi Schiff April 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    His beholdenness to the prison guards union makes anything at all that he says about the prison system pretty doubt-worthy.

    As to the boards and commissions, perhaps he missed the fact that the League of Women Voters has been studying this issue in a careful and responsible way? I just don’t know how involved he is in local affairs, down on the ground level.

  4. ralph April 10, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    I am not sure how involved our current elected officials are in local affairs, down on the gound level. But that is a different story.

    I think the problem is the blogger is expecting the candidate to say something substantive. I think her naivete is endearing. Arnorld use the cut waste and look where it got him. Meg is using the cut waste, but i don’t think anyone one is buying it. Don is using the cut waste but he has a much smaller audience than Meg. Ms. Quan will undoubtedly think of more social programs for which we need to spend money. Cottontop has proven ineffective. So basically, Doony boy just needs to convince enough people that we needs to convince enough people that cutting waste will resolve our problems even if the enlightened few know it won’t. But really given those 3 candidates who would you elect.

    As for the parcel tax. Heck no. I’d rather you keep the sales tax. Then again, I think my purchase habits are well documented so it isn’t like Oakland is getting much by way of sales taxes from me.

    • ralph April 10, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

      you really should have an edit feature

    • ralph April 11, 2010 at 8:53 am #

      Cutting out waste and inefficiency are not republican talking points. Calling them republican talking points is part of the problem. It is simply a good practice any business should follow. In a city that does not know the word right and probably won’t read much further than the headline, you may have given these people reason to dismiss a viable candidate.

  5. len raphael April 10, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    b,in theory landlords can pass thru increased costs such as parcel taxes if unit exempt from rent adjustment progam (RAP). in practice, rents here are kept in check by supply demand and competition from surrounding cities. most landlords would be unable to raise rents to cover new parcel taxes.

  6. Patrick M. Mitchell April 10, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    I couldn’t disagree more regarding parcel tax vs. retaining the sales tax. It’s not like lowering our sales tax rate will increase spending in Oakland because frankly there really isn’t anything to buy. Furthermore, and more importantly, our high property taxes depress our already miserable housing values even further. If I had known that my ad valorem rate was going to go up by .08 (and that’s just last year) and that I was facing the probability of an even larger increase next year, PLUS the specter of 3 (!!!) $250 parcel taxes (AC Transit, OUSD and the Oakland public employee slush fund) I would have NEVER purchased a home here. You may be “happy” to pay a little extra as a renter, but you have an advantage that property owners do not: you may leave at any time with little or no true cost. I’m sick of having this argument; as a renter, you may be invested in our city, but you’re not financially invested. And that’s a hugely important distinction when we’re talking about levying another (just as regressive) tax on an already overburdened citzenry. And thank you len, you’re right. To expand on your hypothesis, there is absolutely no way that the 60% of Oaklanders who rent are going to shoulder anywhere near 60% of the burden if any or all of those parcel taxes pass. Call me cheap, but I am simply not interested in the possibility of paying another $100 a month or more for the appalling “services” we receive. Good God it’s enough to make a man vote Republican.

    • Becks April 11, 2010 at 11:10 am #

      We’ll never agree on the tax issue, but it’s ludicrous to imply that a financial investment is more meaningful than other types of investments in this city. I’m not moving. I might leave my apartment but it will be for another apartment in Oakland and hopefully at some point a condo and then a home.

      I may not have finances invested in Oakland, but I’ve invested literally hundreds of hours (maybe it’s up to thousands by now) of my time and an immense amount of energy.

      • ralph April 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

        Patrick has a valid point. Most of the renters in Oakland do not feel the pain of these every increasing assessments and taxes to pay for basic services. Many of the renters assume that owners are some wealthy lot of people with excess money to spend. The reality is most of us are working stiffs just like you. And like Len said the laws of supply and demand pretty much mean renters will not feel the increase in property tax.

        You simply can not continue to levy more taxes on the middle class to solve the city problems. Yet it is an argument that renters love to make. But when most of them are tax and spend democrats that is the only argument they know how to make.

        Oakland would be better off with a retail base. And since I brought it up, I am going to go thru my purchases to determine what share of my taxable purchase are Oakland vs some other Bay area city.

  7. Robert April 11, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    It is always risky to attempt to interpret someone else’s words, but I don’t think that the take home point from Perata’s comments on boards and commissions is about waste on those boards. The important point that everyone should understand from that is simply that the city doesn’t have a clue about where it does spend it’s money. And absent that knowledge, there is no way that you can possibly bring a budget under control. The budget for a board should be a line item in one or more departmental budgets, and as a consequence it should be a piece of cake to come up with total expense for each and every board. This is the only way to drive accountability in the budgeting process.

    • ralph April 11, 2010 at 9:50 am #

      Robert, I would agree. I think the one takeaway is the city lack’s leadership and no one is accountable. I think he is proposing that he can fill that void and hold people accountable. Lord knows numbnuts hasn’t.

  8. Naomi Schiff April 11, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    Ralph, calling the mayor names doesn’t add to the discussion. Yes, I understand that you don’t admire Mayor Dellums. When you are disappointed with some other person you could come up with names to call that one too. It isn’t so much that it is rude or horrible. It is simply tiresome, doesn’t clarify anything, and makes you sound childish, undermining your opinions.

    • ralph April 11, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

      No one is as disappointing as the person Oakland elected mayor. I find most tax and spend democrats annoying, but I have some respect for them. The man you call mayor is not worthy of any respect. I had more respect for President Bush and I am fairly certain I accorded him more respect than any bay area liberal. So you show you respect where you think appropriate and I will show mine where I think appropriate. But I appreciate your concern.

    • ralph April 13, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

      This is my last comment on this matter. Ms. Schiff, what I find most annoying is your selective need to point items you find annoying. Others have used salty language and less than flattering terms to describe our elected leaders; yet, many times you withhold comment and when you do it is certainly not in the same patronizing language used in your above post. It makes me wonder if you make your decisions based on race as you come across like a woman of a certain age who has not spent any time talking to people outside of her own type. And for the record, as I have previously stated, Cottontop and Q-tip are descriptive while numbnuts is numbnuts.

  9. Naomi Schiff April 14, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    Well, you don’t know me very well.

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