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.