In the midst of Occupy Oakland, some Oaklanders might have forgotten about our municipal mail in only election. Whether they forgot or just decided not to vote, a full 75% of eligible voters did not return their ballots so yesterday evening the election was decided by just under 25% of the electorate. And that quarter of Oakland voters rejected all three ballot measures.
Since I opposed two out of the three measures (and in the case of Measure H – which would have changed the city attorney position from being elected to being appointed by the Council – I vehemently opposed it), I’m pretty happy with the outcome. What I’m not happy about is how much money, time and energy was wasted on this useless election.
Mayor Jean Quan of course blamed the failure of Measure I, the parcel tax, on Occupy Oakland:
Quan said that because of Occupy Oakland, she had been unable to campaign for the parcel tax.
“This is the type of campaign you need to put your full heart and soul in,” Quan said Tuesday.
Occupy Oakland is an easy excuse for her, but it’s clear that this measure would have gone down even if she had put her “full heart and soul in”. The measure needed 2/3 of the vote to pass and it received less than 38% of the vote, just over half the number of votes it needed to pass.
Especially considering that voting was well underway before the initial raid of Occupy Oakland, I don’t see how Quan could have nearly doubled the yes votes no matter how hard she had campaigned. She is easily one of the best campaigners in City Hall, but even if she mobilized her whole network, the best field campaign in the world couldn’t have swung another third of the votes.
So now that the measures have all gone down, where is our city and our budget? Right back where we started at this summer, except with $800,000 dollars down the drain.
Quan and nearly the entire Oakland City Council can be blamed for this waste of sorely needed funds. Councilmember Libby Schaaf wrote this to her email list back in July, right after the Council voted to hold the election:
Last Tuesday, the Council decided to spend $800,000 to call a Special Mail-in Only Election on November 15th. I was the ONLY Councilmember to vote NO on both readings of the Ordinance. While I support the voter’s right to decide, I think the City should have waited less than 1 year and put Measures on the regular election, when more people will vote and the election wouldn’t cost extra money.
Libby’s been proven right, though I’m sure that’s not much consolation to her or her fellow councilmembers. At the end of last night’s Council meeting, Councilmember Nancy Nadel said the meeting should adjourn in memory of Measure H, I and J, and of course her fellow councilmembers laughed (I laughed too). But I doubt they’re laughing this morning.
Soon the Mayor and the Council will need to return to the budget to fill the gaps left by the failed parcel tax and the election expense. Every round of budget cuts over the past few years has gotten worse and worse, as there are fewer “easy” cuts left to make. It’s hard to say what they will cut this time, but whatever they decide, these cuts will have huge impacts on Oakland services and Oakland life.