Tag Archives: budget

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.

November 16-22 Oakland Political & Community Events

15 Nov

Monday, November 16th – Oakland Local Community Meetup

Via the Facebook event: “Oakland Local is one month old! Come join us at our first community meetup in downtown Oakland–community partners, OL bloggers & reporters, people interested in being involved with OL and anyone else who wants to support us are invited to our first meetup at TechLiminal. We’ll have beer, wine, snacks, schwag–and a chance to meet–and join–the Oakland Local team. If you’d like to do blogging or community reporting for this site, this is a chance to sign up and get hands-on instruction–or just hang out and build community.” The meetup takes place from 6:35-8:40 at Tech/Liminal, 268 14th Street, Oakland, CA 94612.

Tuesday, November 17th – Oakland City Council Budget Workshop

Before the regular Council meeting, there will be a special budget workshop to discuss plans for closing the $19 million budget gap. This will be an important meeting, and V Smoothe has given an overview of the staff proposals. See the full staff report and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The budget workshop is scheduled to run from 4-6pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Tuesday, November 17th – League of Women Voters Forum on State Governance Reform Efforts

If you’re at City Hall, stop by this event in between the budget workshop and the Council meeting. Years of legislative stalemates, budget deficits, and declining service levels have led many to the conclusion that decision making in California government has become largely dysfunctional. The League has been closely following the growing number of proposals for reform, from changes in the budget processes to a constitutional convention. Several are in initiatives being readied for the 2010 ballots. A representative from the State League will outline these proposals and discuss the League’s positions. This event will take place from 6:00PM-7:30PM at Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Hearing Room 3 (just inside the 14th St. entrance).

Tuesday, November 17th – Oakland City Council Meeting

After two hours of budget discussion, the City Council still will have to conduct their regular meeting, and there is plenty to discuss. Among other items, they will be discussing Rebecca Kaplan’s billboard proposal, Oakland’s federal legislative agenda, participating in Alameda County’s obesity and tobacco prevention programs grant, a stimulus grant update, and the Oakland Fundy for Children and Youth (OFCY) 2010-2013 strategic plan.  See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The non-ceremonial parts of the meeting start at 7pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, November 18th – Planning Commission Scoping Session on College Ave Safeway

As John Gatewood wrote about last week, the Planning Commission will be holding an EIR scoping session on the College and Claremont Safeway project (not to be confused with the Pleasant Valley Safeway, which already had its scoping session). This scoping session will help determine what the EIR will study, and though public comments should stick to those issues, the neighbors who oppose this project will be out in force in an effort to try to stop the project. Whether you love the current project or not, if you’d like to see the current monstrous parking lot and ugly store updated, please come to this meeting and help balance the statements made by those who oppose it. The Planning Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 15th at 6:00 pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza and the full agenda can be read here.

Wednesday, November 18th – AC Transit Meeting: Vote on Accepting MTC’s Conditions for Fund Swap

The AC Transit Board will be voting on the acceptance of conditions from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in order to swap BRT capital funds to operating funds, in order to stave off some of the planned service cuts. If you haven’t been following this issue, check out V Smoothe’s two thorough posts about it. The Board will also be discussing the creation of a funding task force, communication between the Board and the BRT Policy Steering Committee, and an employment agreement with the interim general manager, Mary King. This meeting will take place at 6pm in the 2nd floor board room, 1600 Franklin Street. You can read the agenda and see the relevant memos here.

Wednesday, November 18th – Community Convergence for Climate Action

Join the Oakland Climate Action Coalition in celebrating and supporting the community-based solutions we hope to see in Oakland’s Energy & Action Plan. Don’t miss this inspiring evening of live performances, free food, and community as we showcase the solutions that will make Oakland a model green city. Convened by the Ella Baker Center, the Oakland Climate Action Coalition is a cross-sector coalition of community-based social justice organizations, environmental experts and advocates, labor unions, and green businesses working for an equitable and just Energy & Climate Action Plan for the City of Oakland. This event takes place from 6-8pm at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St @ 9th Street. Find more info and RSVP at the Ella Baker website.

Thursday, November 19th – Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meeting

Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meets monthly to discusses bicycle and pedestrian issues. This month’s agenda covers the Kaiser Hospital—MacArthur Blvd Median Crossing Design, the Alameda County Union Pacific Railroad Oakland Subdivision Corridor Improvement Study, and Safe Routes to Schools Projects designs. The BPAC is extremely inclusive – any Oakland resident who attends three consecutive meetings becomes a voting member of the committee – so if you’re interested in bike and ped issues, you should consider attending. The BPAC will be meeting from 5:30-7:30pm in Hearing Room 4 of City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Thursday, November 19th – Walk Oakland Bike Oakland Meeting

Come to WOBO’s Nov. 19th volunteer meeting for an “advocate training session.” Have you ever wondered how to get your elected official’s attention and raise awareness about the importance bicycle and pedestrian improvements in Oakland? At this month’s volunteer meeting we will have a representative from the Oakland Heritage Alliance (OHA) speaking about effectively lobbying city hall. Some of the topics Naomi Schiff will cover include how to give effective public testimony, and how to work behind the scenes to persuade elected officials to champion a cause. Participants will leave with ideas for effective advocacy. The meeting will be followed by a pub crawl – not to be missed! This meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm at Bay Area Wilderness Training, 2301 Broadway, Suite B – enter on 23rd Street. For more info, visit WOBO’s website.

September 21-27 Oakland Political & Community Events

21 Sep
Tuesday, September 22nd – Oakland City Council Meeting

After a two month long recess, the Council is back in action this week and this first meeting is full of important and contentious issues. Among many other items, the Council will discuss and vote on an emergency moratorium on nail salons and laundromats, the Public Works Agency performance audit, the City Auditor’s whistleblower program report, and the authorization of incoming Chief of Police Anthony Batts’s salary. That is, they’ll be discussing all of those items if they can get past the most contentious topic of the night – parking. Pat Kernighan, after being targeted by a pro-parking mob, has proposed rolling back meter hour to 6pm from 8pm. The problem is that this would blow a $1.3 million hole in the city’s incredibly tight budget. Kernighan’s solution is to crack down on disabled placard parking fraud, but staff recommends not rolling back the meter times and Rebecca Kaplan sent the Council a copy of Donald Shoup’s presentation on “The High Cost of Free Parking.” See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The non-ceremonial parts of the meeting start at 7pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Tuesday, September 22nd – Walk Oakland Bike Oakland Meeting

Since attendees of past Volunteer Meetings have asked for more speakers on local bike/ped issues, expect to see more “special guests” at WOBO’s monthly meetings. We’re kicking things off with speaker Joel Peter, the Measure DD Coordinator, who will get us up to date on the Measure DD projects. We’ll also talk about the status of WOBO campaigns in progress and leave time for announcements from attendees (just let us know before the meeting that you’ve got an event or info to share). As always, there will be snacks and lots of bike parking.This meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm at Bay Area Wilderness Training, 2301 Broadway, Suite B – enter on 23rd Street. For more info, visit WOBO’s website.

Wednesday, September 23rd – Public Hearings on AC Transit’s Proposed Service Changes

AC Transit will hold public hearings to present its proposed Service Adjustments Plan and gather feedback from the public. If you’re concerned about losing your bus line or just want to hear more about the extensive service adjustments, these will be important hearings to attend. In October, the Board will likely make its final decision on the service adjustments, taking into consideration all public comments received. The Board could accept, modify, reject, or defer each of the proposed changes. If service adjustments are adopted, they likely would be implemented in January 2010. Take the bus: All lines serving downtown Oakland (also BART to 19th Street). The workshops will be held from 2-5pm AND 6-8pm at the AC Transit offices, 1600 Franklin Street, 2nd Floor Board Room. Find further info at AC Transit’s website.

Wednesday, September 23rd – League of Women Voters State Budget Forum

From the League’s website: “At the kick-off meeting on September 15 we will have heard about budget issues from a local perspective. What is the state perspective? We will have a resource person from Assemblymember Sandré Swanson’s office to bring us up to date on the latest information on the state budget. Come learn and talk about what you can be doing to make things happen both here in Oakland and in Sacramento.” The forum will be held from 6:30-8 PM at Lincoln Court Senior Housing, 2400 MacArthur Blvd. (corner of Lincoln and MacArthur).

Thursday, September 24thSpecial Meeting of the Public Ethics Commission

The Public Ethics Commission will be holding a special meeting to discuss proposed amendments to Oakland’s lobbyist registration act. The commission will discuss 1) whether registration and reporting requirements should be limited to paid, professional representatives of an organization or include volunteer representatives as well; 2) should persons who lobby City officials have to communicate a minimum number of times or devote a certain amount of their time to lobbying before triggering a registration requirement; and 3) should people be except from registering if the communications they make are a) made in writing or at a public meeting or, b) made on behalf of certain non-profit groups that operate on City property and provide a public service.These proposals sprang from a commission hearing in May at which John Klein had launched a complaint against Carlos Plazola for not registering with the City for certain lobbying activities. For background, you should read the account by Max Allstadt of the initial hearing and the lengthy discussion that followed it. The meeting will be held at 6:30pm in Hearing Room 2, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can read the meeting agenda here.

Thursday, September 24thWellstone Democratic Club Meeting

The Bay Area Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club will present and discuss”Americans and the Climate Crisis: Attitudes and Social Change” featuring Aaron Pope, Director of Sustainability Programs, California Academy of Sciences. The meeting will be held from 6-9pm at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street in Oakland. For more information, visit the club’s website.

Friday, September 25th – Dancing Under the Stars at Jack London Square

Due to the success of Dancing Under the Stars, Jack London Square will offer an additional four-event series of free outdoor dance classes on select Friday nights through the end of September. Singles and couples alike can practice their sizzling salsa moves, learn new Latin dances like the Cha Cha, or do the Hustle while listening to disco. Live bands will add a new level of entertainment to the program. Novices and experienced dancers are all welcome to spend the evening dancing outdoors on Oakland’s celebrated waterfront.  No reservation is required, and all ages are welcome. Dancing Under the Stars will begin at 7:30 PM for professional dance lessons and 8:30 PM for open dance  at the foot of Broadway. This Friday, they’ll be teaching Rumba and Cha Cha.

Friday, September 25th – Fourth Friday Summer Nights: A Little Princess

This summer, the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate is hosting free movies on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, they’ll be showing Finding Neverland. Via V Smoothe, “The grounds open at 6 PM for picnicking and wandering. Music is provided before the movies, which begin around 8:30, once the sun sets. And if you don’t have a car, no problem! AC Transit line 45 drops you off maybe a 10 minute walk (or less, depending on how fast you walk, I guess) from the Estate and runs until midnight.” The estate is located at 2960 Peralta Oaks Ct.

Saturday, September 26th – Love Your Parks Day

Each year, in the fall, Oakland Parks Coalition (OPC) conducts a city-wide survey of Oakland parks to determine their condition. This year the survey is more important than ever due to the maintenance cutbacks. We need lots of volunteers to ensure that all parks are surveyed. The data from our annual surveys is used as a basis for an OPC annual report, 2007 Community Report Card on the Maintenance of Oakland Parks, which is presented early each year to the Life Enrichment Committee of City Council. The written report and a Power Point Presentation are tools used by OPC to advocate for improved and enhanced maintenance services in Oakland Parks. Meet at 8:30am at the Lakeside Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland. After a continental breakfast you’ll be sent out in teams to survey 3-5 Oakland parks. To find out more information and RSVP, visit OPC’s website.

Saturday, September 26th – Democratic Unity Dinner

The Democratic Unity Dinner is the county’s largest party fundraiser. This year, speakers include Attorney General Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and Board of Equalization Chair Betty Yee. The Party will be honoring ACDCC long-time member Maggie Gee for all her hard work on behalf of the Democratic Party over the years. The Oakland United Democratic Campaign (UDC) will receive the 2009 Democratic Club/UDC award recognizing co-chairs Elizabeth Echols and Rodney Brooks in particular for their success. The monies raised for this event helps support our six county UDCs for 2010. Cocktails at 6 pm and dinner at 7:30 pm at the Oakland Airport Hilton, One Hegenberger Road. Find more info and purchase tickets on ActBlue.

Sunday, September 27th – Rockridge Out and About

The Rockridge District Association organizes its annual street festival to attract residents, visitors and new businesses to College Avenue.  For one magical afternoon, 10 blocks are transformed into a street fair featuring live music, cooking demonstrations, artisans and food booths, arts, crafts and kids activities. I’ve always enjoyed this street festival, but this year they’re adding an awesome new feature – a Cookbook Exchange! Bring a used cookbook and exchange it for another (remaining books will go to the Rockridge Public Library). The festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on College Avenue from Claremont to the Rockridge Library, in the Rockridge shopping district. Find more info at the festival’s website.

Sunday, September 27th – Sundays in the Redwoods – The Oakland Symphony

This free concert features the The Oakland Symphony & John Handy. Bring sunscreen, hats and water– it can get very hot in the sun. Gates open at 1:30– concerts start at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joaquin Miller Road. To reserve a picnic table, contact Renee Tucker at 238-4720. Find more info at the Sundays in the Redwoods website.

BART’s financial troubles will continue unless agency dramatically changes course

18 Aug

Luckily, the BART strike has been averted and commuters can relax a bit, but unfortunately, BART’s financial crisis is unlikely to end this year. Probably as soon as next year, they’ll have to make more service cuts or raise fares again to balance the agency’s budget.

The BART board and BART spokespeople have done a great job scapegoating the unions for the financial woes of the agency. I won’t dispute the reality that government employee unions across the state have been renegotiating contracts and giving back, in the form of salaries or benefits. And I won’t dispute the likelihood that BART did need the unions to renegotiate in order to save some money.

But I’d like to examine the figure BART has been using throughout contract negotiations – the “need” to save $100 million in labor costs over four years. BART has consistently made it seem that the only place for these savings were to be found were via labor, but that is not the case.

Let’s take a look at the 2009 BART budget. It’s true that labor costs are a huge portion of this budget, at $388 million. But there are other substantial numbers that could be or could have been reduced if the BART board had made better decisions:

  • $70 million in debt service
  • $17.5 million to SFO reserves
  • $107 million for system expansion

(I can’t find detailed breakdowns of these numbers so I’m going to extrapolate based on what I know. If anyone can point me to BART’s more detailed budget, I’ll write a follow up post with more information.)

The debt service and funding to the SFO reserves are costs that could have been avoided if BART had make better decisions in the past. Debt service comes from taking out loans for capital expenditures, much of which has been system expansion. The SFO funding is similar – BART predicted extremely high ridership on the SFO extension and it didn’t pan out. So now the core BART system is paying for these poor past decisions.

The $107 million for system expansion is different because a lot of that money comes from outside grants so it’s not being drawn from core system funding. However, BART does contribute some of this funding, as is stated in the budget, “The capital budget is funding primarily through capital grants; however District-allocated funds are also needed for a portion of the required local match and for expenditures which do not qualify for grants.”

So when BART says that they need to find $100 million in labor savings over the next four years and that service cuts and fare increases can’t be avoided, what they really mean is that they value system expansion over core service and labor. That means they’re choosing the Oakland Airport Connector and the extension to San Jose over running trains at least every 15 minutes at all hours.

Since there’s no sign that the BART board is going to change course and halt their wasteful expansions that endanger the core system, BART riders and BART unions should expect to be targeted during budgeting year after year. The $150 million dollar loan the BART board plans to take out to fund the Oakland Airport Connector will alone suck significant funds from the core system. Debt will grow and as ridership on the extensions does not pan out, the core system will continue to crumble.

The long term solution cannot just be about labor negotiations but must also include a change of course and prioritization. And for that, it might be time to get some new BART directors in office who, like Tom Radulovich, understand the need to protect the core system over expensive and wasteful extensions. Until the next election though, the best thing we can do is to stop the Oakland Airport Connector, which you can help do by signing the petition opposing the project and demanding a better connector.

Breaking down the City Auditor’s math & claims

31 Jul

On Tuesday night, the Oakland City Council passed what I think is a pretty good budget amendment, considering the huge gap they had to fill. They averted the worst cuts, and overall, the community seemed pretty happy. By the time they reached public comment on the budget, most speakers thanked them for the changes before speaking.

But not everyone was happy with the budget. Yesterday, City Auditor Courtney Ruby sent an email to her supporters in which she got got fired up and took aim at the City Council. There’s so much hyperbole and misplaced anger in this email that I thought I’d dissect most of it piece by piece.

Your City Hall “watchdog” is being maimed and only your actions can stop it.

On Tuesday, 15 minutes before the City Council meeting, I was informed by a legislative aide that the Council would be cutting the City Auditor’s budget – to date the cuts by Council to my budget equal 10%. Yesterday, I sent this letter to the editor and today The Oakland Tribune covered the story – you can read it by clicking here.

Sounds pretty bad, huh? What Ruby fails to mention here is that every city department has faced at least 10% cuts. The fire union negotiated with the Council, making significant concessions, and even the police department came to an agreement with the City, freezing their salaries until January 2013. The City Council even cut their own budgets by 20% and Public Works has cut park maintenance staff in half! Oakland is in tough times, and unlike with the state budget, the Council is attempting to truly spread the pain.

As far as the timing goes, well, that wasn’t ideal, but the Council didn’t have much of a choice. After finding out that we weren’t going to get as much from the COPS grant as we had applied for and after a few other items blew holes in the budget, the Council rushed to set up a special Council meeting this week to close the $18.74 million gap. City staff created a budget proposal, released late last week, and the Council understandably didn’t like all of it. So Jane Brunner, Ignacio De La Fuente, Pat Kernighan, and Jean Quan had just a few days to craft something better. So it’s not like they were plotting to hide the cuts from Ruby – they just hadn’t finalized anything until Tuesday.

Also, this 10% cut isn’t entirely new so it shouldn’t have been so surprising. Nearly half of the cut was made on June 30th, when the Council approved cutting $66,630 from the Auditor’s budget by combining the receptionist with the receptionist for the Public Ethics Commission. So this week’s new cut of $70,000 is only a bit more than a 5% cut.

It’s ironic, at a time when oversight is needed to protect every penny from potential fraud, waste and misuse, the City Council, elected by you, chooses to undermine our ability to monitor taxpayer dollars. The fact that they hid their intention to cut this office and then uniformly voted in favor of the cut with the justification that it was simply procedural is a travesty. With a city of our size – the City Auditor’s office should be twice the size it is. Today we are working with less than 50% of the required staffing, a 10% cut is painfully significant and threatens the capacity of your independently elected watchdog.

Hmm, did Ruby pause to think that maybe if the Council “uniformly voted in favor of the cut,” then it might be the right thing to do? Did she bother to take a look at what the Council was not cutting that city staff had recommended cutting? Let’s see, they could have shut the main library down for two days a week so that it would only be open five days. Or they could have entirely closed the San Antonio Recreation Center. Or they could have eliminated the neighborhood service coordinators.

If Ruby had bothered to listen to public comment Tuesday night, she would have heard that those are the issues that citizens of Oakland care about. I think Ruby would be hard pressed to find any citizen who thought a 10% cut to the Auditor’s office was more detrimental than shutting the main library down for two days a week.

It is unfortunate that given all we have had to do in these tough economic times, we need to continually spend time reminding the Council that the citizens of Oakland demand oversight as dictated by the City Charter. The City Auditor’s office is not another “department” of the city – we are the people’s eyes and ears inside City Hall.

Look, I understand that a 10% cut is difficult, but it’s not impossible. These are difficult economic times, and if other departments can make 10-20% cuts (on top of furloughs and reduced salaries), her office should be able to make these cuts too. Also, in 2008, the Auditor’s office was essentially the only department that evaded cuts entirely.

And regardless of what she claims, the City Auditor’s office is a city department. Thank you very much, but my eyes and ears inside City Hall are my own, or maybe sometimes V Smoothe’s or dto510’s or my other politically involved colleagues.

Oakland has not earned the reputation of providing impeccable oversight of public money. Given the City’s difficult budget situation, there is a heightened importance for the City Auditor’s Charter-mandated roles and responsibilities of assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of City programs and services, and ferreting out fraud, waste, and abuse. The first audit we completed on payroll revealed glaring problems with the City’s internal controls and the gross abuse of power by the former city administrator.

Please Ruby, do tell us what you have done to help with the budget situation. If there was any evidence that the Auditor’s work was saving us money, I’d be more sympathetic to these claims, but there’s simply no evidence of this.

And what about this payroll audit she mentions? It’s true that the audit found huge amounts of money wasted. But much of the data and conclusions of this report were later found to be entirely wrong by city staff.

Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago when the Oakland Unified School District failed to invest in an audit function which ultimately landed the District in state receivership –the City and school system paid dearly as a result, and continues to pay as we work to rebuild our school district.

Just last week, I joined Laura Chick, Inspector General for the Oversight of California’s Federal Stimulus Funds, to be part of a workshop for municipalities and non-profits applying for stimulus money. The panel warned potential applicants about the many pitfalls of poor fiscal management and explicitly what should and shouldn’t be done when receiving and using the billions of dollars in federal funds. What the City Council did on Tuesday, in cutting back on oversight, is exactly what shouldn’t be done. It’s a classic example of being penny wise and pound foolish.

OK, now Ruby’s gone too far, basically suggesting that with this 10% cut, Oakland is going to fall into the same mess as OUSD, even though there’s no evidence of the same lack of fiscal management that occurred at OUSD. And if you notice the phrases in bold , she’s accusing the City of “fraud, waste and abuse,” “poor fiscal management,” and doing “exactly what shouldn’t be done.” Please Ruby, tell us why in your two and half years you’ve never presented strong evidence of this, if this is truly the case?

Many of you have expressed your concern and outrage to the City Council and for that I am grateful. For those of you who have not yet called or written, I need you to call and write today demanding the Ctiy Auditor’s Office is FULLY FUNDED-that is 100% (not the current less then 50%)

I encourage you to contact the editors at The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle with letters letting your voice be heard. It shouldn’t be a struggle to ensure our tax dollars are spent wisely. As citizens of Oakland, we deserve the best!

Now here, I’m going to have to agree with her. Let’s contact the City Council, but to thank them for not shutting the main library or cutting the neighborhood services coordinators. Let’s write to the local papers and explain that every department is facing cuts and that Ruby is not being targeted.

Please know that despite efforts by the City Council to “muzzle” this office, we will continue to work hard. While their actions might only make us the equivalent of half a watchdog, luckily for Oakland we’re the ‘half’ with the teeth.

Committed to serving you with the utmost integrity,

Courtney Ruby, CPA
Oakland City Auditor

Half a watchdog? Because of a 10% cut? Her claim that the Auditor’s office was already cut in half is just not true! It’s been at 10 FTEs (full time employees) since 1998-99! (Since her receptionist is now shared, she’s down to 9.5 FTEs.)

Ruby, if you really are committed to serving us with the “utmost integrity,” please reflect on this hyperbolic message you sent. Reflect on how poorly it reflects on our city government. And if you’d really like to serve us, give up this self-serving campaign, figure out how to implement the cuts, and get back to auditing.

July 27-August 2 Oakland Political & Community Events

26 Jul

Monday, July 27th – Musical Mondays at Jack London Square – Lava

This summer, Jack London Square is holding a two month series of Musical Mondays. Jack London Square hosts live musical entertainment to enjoy while playing favorite board games. Check out chess, checkers, scrabble and much more. Build up an appetite and check out the prix fixe dinner menus that the JLS restaurants will feature to help you ease into another work week. This event will be held from 5:30-8:00 pm at the foot of Broadway in Jack London Square.

Tuesday, July 28th – Oakland City Council Meeting

No, this isn’t a typo – the Council is holding a special meeting at an earlier time this Tuesday, which will be the last until after recess, in September. This should be a particularly interesting meeting since there’s no consent calendar or ceremonial items, which means you should tune in at 5 if you don’t want to miss anything. The meeting will start off with a discussion of the Army Base, which alone could take hours. Then they’ll discuss the budget, budget, and more budget. But wait, haven’t they already passed a budget? Sure, they passed one a month ago, but things have gotten worse since then, and they’ll likely be dealing with the budget throughout the year. V Smoothe has a thorough (and thoroughly depressing) post up about the new proposals for budget cuts and revenue increases. See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The non-ceremonial parts of the meeting start at 5pm at the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Tuesday, July 28th – Walk Oakland Bike Oakland Monthly Meeting

Summer is ON. Join us Tuesday for the next WOBO Volunteer Meeting, featuring a project to update the City’s inventory of over 250 paths and stairways. This presentation is a prelude to a month-long volunteer-led data-gathering project that will take place across the City during August. The collective inventory will assist the City in developing a sound, prioritized approach for fixing/maintaining these pedestrian resources. Come learn more about the project, how it works and how to get involved. (This project is a collaborative effort of Oakland Urban Paths, WOBO and the City of Oakland.) This meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm at Bay Area Wilderness Training, 2301 Broadway, Suite B – enter on 23rd Street. For more info, visit WOBO’s website.

Thursday, July 30thSpecial Election Campaign Party

With all four ballot measures passing, the Measure C Committee will be hosting a party to celebrate and to thank the volunteers who helped with the campaigns. All campaign committees and volunteers are welcome to attend. The party will be held from 5:30 – 7:30pm, at Oakland Marriott City Center, at A.J. Toppers.  RSVP by July 28 to Manette@oaklandcvb.com or 208-0526.

Thursday, July 30th – BART Police Department Review Committee Meeting

The BART Police Department Review Committee seeks public input on the Draft Model of Citizen Oversight for the BART Police Department. The draft model of Citizen Oversight will be posted on Monday, July 27 with the BART Board Notice of the Special Meeting. The meeting will be held at  6:30 p.m. at Joseph P. Bort Metro Center Auditorium, 101 – 8th Street in Oakland (across from Lake Merritt BART Station).

Saturday-Sunday, August 1st-2nd – 2nd Annual Lakefest Street Festival

Lakefest ’09 will be the the second annual Lakeshore Avenue street festival. Lakeshore Ave will be turned into a pedestrian zone from Lake Park to Mandana to host this free community event featuring live music, artisans, merchant sidewalk sale, art installations, “green” businesses and non-profits, street performers, children’s fun zone. Lakefest will take place on August 1-2 (Sat. & Sun) from 10am to 6pm, in the Lakeshore Avenue Business District, Lakeshore Ave exit off of 580 Freeway (near Grand Ave and Lake Merritt). AC Transit lines 12 and 57 will get you there. For more information, visit www.oaklandlakefest.com.

Sunday, August 2nd – Health Care Forum

The Maxwell Park Neighborhood Association and the Obama Organizing for America will sponsor a Health Care Forum this Sunday.  Speakers will include Judy Pope, Health Committee, Wellstone Democratic Club speaking for Single Payer Health Care; and Dr Sue Jacobson, Kaiser Physician, for Public Option, Obama health plan.  Respondents will include community residents.  Please attend to gain clarity around the current battle in Washington DC as well as plans for health reform here in California.  Donation will be requested at the door to help pay the rental but nobody will be turned away.  The forum will be held from 3-5 pm at The Space, 4148 MacArthur in the Laurel District one block from High Street.

Oakland Updates: Election, Budget, OAC, Parking, and ACT

25 Jul

Though a ton has been happening in Oakland this week, I’ve unfortunately been mostly unable to write about it, since I flew to LA after the MTC meeting and have been absurdly busy ever since. Luckily, others have covered the important stuff, so I thought I’d take a few moments to highlight what’s been going on.

Oakland passes all four election measures: Unless you’ve been out of the country for the past week, you know by now that all four measures passed overwhelmingly. I’m not going bother linking to any newspaper stories, but you should check out Brian Leubitz’s blog post about how Oakland’s election and other municipal elections show that Californian’s are ready to embrace new taxes when they make sense.

But state budget means there will be deep cuts to services Oaklanders depend on: During the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jean Quan announced the election results and the Council seemed please. Unfortunately, they’re going to be back to the drawing board because the state legislature approved “borrowing” money from municipalities. V Smoothe has a good round up of state budget coverage, but I have to warn you that it’s depressing.

The OAC saga drags on: After hearing dozens of speakers explain why the Oakland Airport Connector makes no sense and urging the MTC to hold off on voting until after the Oakland City Council had weighed in, the MTC approved the $140 million in funding anyway. The most maddening part was that several of the commissioners who voted in favor of the funding explained that this project is terrible, but that it’s too late to change it, and anyways, it’s BART’s responsibility, not the MTC. The fight is still not over though. The OAC will be going before the Public Works Committee as an action item on September 15th so mark that on your calendar and see if you can go into work a bit late to attend the meeting. I’ll have more details and info about how to get involved next week.

And now we have the parking saga to keep us busy too: If you drive, you’ve probably noticed that meter rates have been raised to $2 an hour and the meters run until 8pm. I love this new policy, and not just as a transit user, but also as a driver. Last Saturday night I went out to dinner in Rockridge, and it was easier than ever before to find metered parking. Fragmentary Evidence wrote a very compelling piece about why it makes sense to raise parking rates. If you’re going to read anything today, read that. (Which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here how much I love Fragmentary Evidence. If it’s not on your regular reading list, it really should be.) For a different perspective on the parking rates, take a look at the Grand Lake Theater owner’s commentary in the Berkeley Daily Planet, which argues that the raise in rates is a “death sentence for Oakland businesses.” The Oakland City Council discussed this issue in depth on Tuesday (I’ll have a post up about that next week), and something tells me that we’re going to hear much more about this in the days to come.

Ride ACT shares two videos: Another excellent blog is Ride ACT, and in the past couple weeks they’ve shared a couple of YouTube videos that area worth watching. The first is a beautiful piece about the 54 line:

The second is a promotional video about AC Transit that I must admit is a bit cheesy, but still enjoyable:

June 29-July 5 Oakland Political & Community Events

28 Jun

Monday, June 29th – East Bay for Kamala Harris “$30 Before June 30th” Countdown Bash

Though it’s early in the 2010 campaign cycle, statewide candidates are busy raising money and building their support bases. Whether you’re decided in the Attorney General race, Monday’s party for Kamala Harris should be a fun event and is probably one of the cheapest AG fundraisers you’ll find. Music will feature Martin Luther Rebel Soul Music, Kev Choice Ensemble, Fear & Fancy, and DJ D Sharp. The party will be held at Maxwell’s Lounge, 341 13th Street from 7:30-10pm. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online – all ages are welcome. You can RSVP and find more info on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 30th – Oakland City Council Meeting on Budget (note special time)

Tuesday’s Council meeting, which starts at 5pm and should be very long, is all about the budget (yes, again). They’ll be discussing a mix of taxes, fees, and cuts, which is a refreshingly well-rounded approach compared to what’s going on in Sacramento. See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The meeting starts at 5pm at the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, July 1st – Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Meeting

Every month, the Central Committee meets to discuss party business and to make plans for the future of the Democratic Party in Alameda County. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Democratic Party, this is a great way to do so. I’m an associate member for the 16th Assembly District, so you can find me at this meeting every month. The meeting will be held from 7-9pm in the San Leandro Main Library, Dave Karp Room, 300 Estudillo Ave., San Leandro, CA 94577.

Thursday, July 2nd – Temescal Street Cinema

The Second Annual Temescal Street Cinema returns to 49th and Telegraph (Bank of the West Building) this summer for another year of great, free, locally made films! There’ll be live music and free popcorn at every show, with events getting started at 8 PM every Thursday from June 11-July 16. Movies will start when it gets dark, no sooner than 8:30 PM. Come early or bring a chair! This will feature Drylongso: “Pica is a woman who can’t find meaning in her own life. Living in Oakland, CA, she’s tired of her job at an illegal poster distribution center. Unable to complete a photography project on herself at school, she grabs a Polaroid camera and decides to document the existence of young black men, whom she feels are a breed on the verge of becoming extinct. What results is a beautiful tribute to the power of community.” Find out more details at the Temescal Business Improvement District’s website.

Friday, July 3rd – Dancing Under the Stars at Jack London Square

Via Angela Woodall: “Free Outdoor Classes from May 1 to July so you can Dance the Night Away on Oakland’s Waterfront. On Friday nights this Spring and Summer, Jack London Square will see sizzling salsa, tight turns, and elegant waltzes. But on this dance floor, there will be no judges and no one will be voted out. Jack London Square today announced Dancing Under the Stars, a summer of free outdoor dance classes open to the public. Over ten Friday night sessions, visitors will be treated to professional instruction in a range of popular steps, all on Oakland’s waterfront and by the light of the stars. Dancing Under the Stars will begin at 8:30 PM each Friday at the foot of Broadway from May 1st to July 3rd.” This Friday, they’ll be teaching Salsa.

Saturday, July 4th – Fireworks Show at Jack London Square

The Port of Oakland and the City of Oakland will present a 20 minute fireworks show over the Oakland and Alameda estuary. Jack London Square provides a prime viewing area for watching this spectacular event. The fireworks will begin at 9:15 PM and end at 9:35 PM. Jack London Square will celebrate the holiday with live music beginning at 7:00 PM. Enjoy the big band sounds of the Ben Oni Orchestra and the Rhythm and Blues of the BluesBurners. Free bike valet will be available at 7:00 PM at Jack London Square’s newest shop, Bay Area Bikes. Parking at Jack London Square may be scarce, so visitors are invited to take public transportation.

Sunday, July 5th – 5th Oakland Grand Prix of Cycling

Approximately 350 cyclists from USA Cycling will bike a .85 mile closed loop of Oakland City Streets in the Kaiser Center Area for these Multi-Lap (Criterium) Bicycle Races from 8am-5pm. Cheer on amateurs and professionals, including riders from across the country and some foreign amateurs as well. The Races will feature eight separate multi-lap events, ranging from (Senior 1/2/Pro-Am, 40 miles) down to 10 laps. Location: A .85 mile closed loop of Oakland City Streets in the Kaiser Center area: A clockwise hourglass loop on Harrison, 19th, Webster, 20th, Franklin, 22nd, Webster, 20th and Harrison. For details, call (209) 533-8234 or email Velo Promo.

June 15-21 Oakland Political & Community Events

14 Jun

Monday, June 15th – Musical Mondays at Jack London Square – Jump City

Last week, Jack London Square started its two month series of Musical Mondays. Jack London Square hosts live musical entertainment to enjoy while playing favorite board games. Check out chess, checkers, scrabble and much more. Build up an appetite and check out the prefix dinner menus that the JLS restaurants will feature to help you ease into another work week. This event will be held from 5:30-8:00 pm at Palm Tree Plaza (yes, they really call it that) in Jack London Square.

Tuesday, June 16th – Port Commission Hearing on Oakland Airport Connector Funding

Two weeks ago, the Aviation Committee of the Port Commission voted to move move the OAC funding issue onto the full committee, and then for some reason the full commission delayed the hearing. On Tuesday, the full commission will vote on taking the first step on funding the OAC to the tune of $44 million. You can read all about this issue in my post about this hearing. The meeting starts at 4:30 pm and will be held at 530 Water Street in Oakland (accessible by the 72, 72M, or 72R buses).

Tuesday, June 16th – Oakland City Council Meeting on Budget (note special time)

Tuesday’s Council meeting, which starts in the afternoon and should be very long, is all about the budget. Councilmembers Jane Brunner, Ignacio De La Fuente, Pat Kernighan, and Jean Quan will be presenting their alternative budget proposal to Mayor Dellums’ proposal, and I think it’s a huge improvement.  They’ll be discussing a mix of taxes, fees, and cuts, which is a refreshingly well-rounded approach compared to what’s going on in Sacramento. See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The meeting starts at 3pm at the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, June 17th – Special Community Meeting for Zoning Issues in the Oakland Hills

The City is updating its zoning regulations, which govern the physical development of land.  Zoning regulations affect many people living and working in Oakland. We urge you to become familiar with the zoning update process and get involved. The purpose of the meeting is to familiarize you with the issues and zoning in the Oakland hills as well as to obtain input about additional issues with development in the hills, and the preliminary zoning outline for the Oakland hills. This meeting will be held from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Skyline Community Church, 12540 Skyline Boulevard.

Thursday, April 18th – Uptown Unveiled & Taste of Uptown

On Thursday night, several blocks in Uptown will be closed to car traffic and instead filled with music, food, and tons of people. There are going to be three stages on Telegraph from 16th to 20th featuring incredible music, including Damon and the Heathens, The Kev Choice Ensemble, and John Santos. Franklin will also be closed to traffic between 21st and 22nd and will be showcasing Uptown’s finest food. And if you haven’t checked out the Fox Theater, they’ll be doing tours for the public. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else on Thursday night. So head to Uptown from 5-10pm to enjoy what the area has to offer. More details can be found here (PDF) and I’ll likely be writing a more detailed post about it early this week because there’s far too much to cover here.

Thursday, April 18th – Central Estuary Plan Community Workshop #3

If for some bizarre reason you’d rather stay inside than hang out on the street in Uptown, you can check out the third second meeting for the Central Estuary Plan, which is designed to build a vision and provide a framework to support development and enhancement of the Estuary from Adeline Street to 66th Avenue.  The workshop will be in an “open house” format where project staff will be available to answer questions and discuss information gathered on Plan Area existing conditions. You can read about the first meet at Oakland Streets or at A Better Oakland. (The CEDA website also includes meeting presentations and other materials.) Please drop by any time between 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. to visit the open house information stations at your leisure. Light refreshments will be served. This workshop will be held at The Unity Council, Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center, 3301 East 12th Street, Suite 201 (Fruitvale Transit Village).

Friday, June 19th – Dancing Under the Stars at Jack London Square

Via Angela Woodall: “Free Outdoor Classes from May 1 to July so you can Dance the Night Away on Oakland’s Waterfront. On Friday nights this Spring and Summer, Jack London Square will see sizzling salsa, tight turns, and elegant waltzes. But on this dance floor, there will be no judges and no one will be voted out. Jack London Square today announced Dancing Under the Stars, a summer of free outdoor dance classes open to the public. Over ten Friday night sessions, visitors will be treated to professional instruction in a range of popular steps, all on Oakland’s waterfront and by the light of the stars. Dancing Under the Stars will begin at 8:30 PM each Friday at the foot of Broadway from May 1st to July 3rd.” This Friday, they’ll be teaching the Hustle.

Saturday, June 20th – 4th Annual Laurel Summer Solstice Festival

For the fourth year in a row, the Laurel Village Association is coordinating a Summer Solstice Music Festival on June 20, 2009.  Amateur and professional musicians perform for free in unconventional public spaces such as street corners, merchant parking lots, and residential driveways.  Join us at numerous sites along MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland’s Laurel neighborhood from 1:00 – 7:00 p.m. on June 20th! Find more details at their website.

Saturday & Sunday, June 20th & 21st -The Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus Presents: Cabaret – Zoot Suit!

The Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus and Swing Fever of San Francisco is proud to present Cabaret-Zoot Suit! on Saturday, June 20th, 7:30 pm and Sunday, June 21, 5 pm at First Christian Church of Oakland, 111 Fairmount Ave., Oakland, CA.  Proceeds from this event are used to produce the chorus’s concerts and community projects throughout the year.  Visit their website for map, directions, tickets and more!

Oakland assembly members speak out against Arnold’s cuts only budget proposal

3 Jun

Last week, I wrote about Assemblymember Noreen Evans’ awesome budget blog, and if you’ve been following the budget process you know that things are looking just as grim for the state as they are for Oakland. Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing cuts, cuts, and more cuts (oh, and one fee), just as he did during the last budget crisis. But you might be thinking that those cuts won’t get made because the Democrats are going to stand up against them and hold out until a better deal is reached, right?

Wrong.

As the Calitics team has been so thoroughly documenting, Darrell Steinberg and Karen Bass, who are supposed to be leading the Democrats in Sacramento, have given in to Arnold’s rhetoric. David Dayen wrote a brilliant post about this earlier this week, claiming that Sacramento Democrats have the “Sacramento Syndrome”:

Here’s the problem, in a nutshell.  In 1978 California passed Prop. 13, and Democrats have run for cover ever since.  They should have put up a fight immediately.  But instead, Democrats cowered in fear of losing power, despite the demographic shifts in the state since the mid-1990s, so they lay low and never advocate for the necessary reforms, and buy completely into the myth that the 70’s-era tax revolt remains alive and well, and they take public opinion polls like this as static and unchangeable through anything resembling leadership.  Obviously Republicans are insane in this state, but they can barely manage 1/3 of the legislature (and if we had a half-decent campaign apparatus among California Democrats they’d lose that too) and shouldn’t be feared in any respect.  Yet our Democratic leadership exists in a post-1978 fog, a kind of “Sacramento Syndrome,” where they’ve come to love their captors on the right, and have bought into their claims.

Fortunately though, not all Democratic legislators have fallen under the spell of this syndrome. Noreen Evans continues to speak out against a cuts only solution. And Oakland’s assemblymembers are speaking out as well.

After the Governor’s speech yesterday, they both issued strong statements. Assemblymember Sandre Swanson said:

Our budget must reflect our priorities. It must reflect what kind of state we want to be.  I believe our state should be one that gives priority to children, seniors, and support for working families, all of which requires us to invest in our state.  I hope we will look at revenue solutions that are realistic, that help the state support its safety net programs, and that provide Californians with the services they require and demand as they work to bring our state through this economic crisis.

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner echoed similar concerns, backing up her position with polling that shows that Californians support some taxes and don’t want to see deep cuts:

Two recent polls (Binder, www.docstoc.com/docs/6220193/Reasons-Prop-1A-Failed-memo, and the California Field Poll, www.field.com/fieldpollonline/subscribers/Rls2306.pdf ) reveal that Californians support some revenue increases and do not favor drastic cuts to education, health care and other essential services.

We have choices. For instance, restoring the top income tax rate on high wealth incomes of $250,000 and above in place under Republican Governors Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan would allow us to avoid $4 billion of these cuts.  Enacting an oil severance fee on oil drilled in California, revenue collected by every state and country in the world that produces significant amounts of oil, could avoid another $1 billion in cuts.

Oaklanders should be proud that our Assemblymembers not only have a solid grasp on the real issues here but are brave enough to speak out for their principals, when many of their colleagues are not.

Here are the full press releases from Swanson and Skinner:

Swanson Responds To Governor’s Budget Proposal

(Sacramento) – In response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s address to the joint session of the State Legislature, Assemblymember Swanson (D-Alameda), made the following statement:

“The Governor’s proposal to balance the $24 billion budget shortfall without the use of additional revenues is neither a fair nor realistic solution to the budget crisis.  I find it morally objectionable for the Governor’s proposals to specifically cut Cal-Works, Healthy Families, Cal-Grants, In-home service care for the elderly, and even access to State parks.  The Governor’s proposal also fails at its intended goals: it fails to address our deficit and it fails to reflect our priorities.

In this budget year alone, we have instituted $23 billion of cuts, over 20% of our $105 billion budget. These cuts represent a tremendous amount of pain for California, a serious reduction in services to our constituencies, and a reduction in the prosperity of our state.

Our budget must reflect our priorities. It must reflect what kind of state we want to be.  I believe our state should be one that gives priority to children, seniors, and support for working families, all of which requires us to invest in our state.  I hope we will look at revenue solutions that are realistic, that help the state support its safety net programs, and that provide Californians with the services they require and demand as they work to bring our state through this economic crisis.”

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner Says We Have Choices

SACRAMENTO, CA – California Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) issued a statement today responding to Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget address:

The Governor’s opening statement that the voters in rejecting the special election measures said, “don’t ask us to solve complex budget issues, that’s your job,” is right.

He was wrong however in his assertion that Californians want an all cuts solution.

Two recent polls (Binder, www.docstoc.com/docs/6220193/Reasons-Prop-1A-Failed-memo, and the California Field Poll, www.field.com/fieldpollonline/subscribers/Rls2306.pdf ) reveal that Californians support some revenue increases and do not favor drastic cuts to education, health care and other essential services.

We have choices. For instance, restoring the top income tax rate on high wealth incomes of $250,000 and above in place under Republican Governors Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan would allow us to avoid $4 billion of these cuts.  Enacting an oil severance fee on oil drilled in California, revenue collected by every state and country in the world that produces significant amounts of oil, could avoid another $1 billion in cuts.

The Governor talked of us acting courageously. Acting courageously is looking at all alternatives and making smart, rational choices that lessen the cuts with some sensible new revenues.