Tag Archives: California

A budget blog worth following

28 May

In April, Jean Quan unveiled her Oakland budget blog, and I must admit that I was pretty excited about it. In the past, the only way I’ve been able to follow the budget is via A Better Oakland, which is great, but there’s no way V Smoothe can cover everything. So I hoped that Oakland’s budget blog would aid me in following the rest of the budget process.

And for a few days in mid-April, I was mostly satisfied. There were announcements about meetings and hearings, a graph showing where Oakland’s money came from, and of course the Oakland budget challenge.

But days went by, and then weeks, and nothing has been posted. The last update was on April 16th and clearly a lot has happened since then. Maybe Quan could have posted a link to the Mayor’s proposed budget (HUGE PDF). Or maybe she could have created some more graphs so V Smoothe wouldn’t have had to. At the least, she really should have updated the listing of hearings, which still says that the budget workshop today starts at 4pm, when it really started at 1pm.

Oh well, I’ve given up on my high hopes for the Oakland budget blog, but I thought I could find some information about today’s budget workshop somewhere on the City website. So I checked the agenda, which tells me absolutely nothing! Really, don’t bother clicking through because there’s nothing there.

Apparently, the only way to keep up with the budget is by attending or watching the budget hearings, or by reading A Better Oakland’s coverage. Luckily though, the state’s budget process may be more transparent, thanks to Assemblymember Norreen Evans, who chairs the Legislature’s Budget Conference Committee. She’s started an excellent blog that has been updated daily, which provides substantive and up-to-date information bout the California budget process.

Oakland and California are embarking on budget processes that will effect every resident of this city and state. While both processes will be extremely difficult and will likely lead to deep cuts on services we depend on, at least there’s a way to easily follow what’s happening on the state level, while at the city level, we’ll be left in the dark.

What happened? And what’s next?

21 May

My girlfriend’s graduating from UC Berkeley tomorrow so I’ll be busy with family and friends for the next few days and posting will be light here. I wanted to tie up some loose ends before the weekend though.

So now that the not-so-special election is over and all the meaningful initiatives went down, I know a lot of people are asking, “What’s next?” Well, to start off with, Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee, created this awesome video that explains the real problems the state has with budgeting and debunks several myths (via Calitics):

Senate and Assembly leaders Darrel Steinberg and Karen Bass have outlined what the budget process is going to look like this time around. The process starts immediately, as in today, and sounds more inclusive than the previous process. I encourage you to follow the budget, as it will have serious effects on Oakland. The best way to follow it is via Calitics or Capital Notes. Also, if readers are interested, I may do some coverage here.

Beyond this year’s budget, it’s clear that we need to make some serious changes in California. Courage Campaign has offered up three steps to fix California:

STEP ONE: Restore democracy and accountability in our budget process — majority vote for budgets
STEP TWO: Restore responsible taxation of the wealthy and corporations
STEP THREE: Call for a Constitutional Convention

They’ve already started an online petition for a majority vote budget, which you can sign here. As for the Constitutional Convention, the Bay Area Council has a website up dedicated to making that happen.

Back to Oakland – You’re probably wondering what has happened in the Uptown parking lot saga. Unfortunately, I don’t have much news for you. Staff wrote and submitted the art proposal, but I haven’t heard what’s happened since. Hopefully I’ll have a more definitive update next week. (Thanks to dto510 for keeping me updated on this.)

I ran into the blogger who writes the Overhead Wire yesterday on my way home from work, and he wanted to know what happened with the TOD grant I discussed on Monday. Well, Larry Reid (along with two other members of the council) didn’t come to the council meeting on Tuesday, and the item thankfully stayed on the consent calendar. This means that Oakland is accepting the grant to study transit-oriented development along International, and TransForm will do a stellar job working with them on this.

If you missed last week’s BART board meeting on the Oakland Airport Connector, you can now listen to it in its entirety. Scott Mace has taken it upon himself to record every BART meeting. You can check out the recordings on his blog. Thanks Scott for this awesome service! Now if we could just find someone to do the same for AC Transit board meetings.

And one last thing – next week I’m finally going to post the results of the Living in the O survey. So if you haven’t taken it yet, now’s your last chance.

So many mixed feelings

5 Nov

Yesterday was incredible. I woke up with so much energy and went out and voted. Then, I spent the next four hours walking a very hilly precinct in Oakland where half of the doors were up several flights of stairs. It was completely exhausting but also very fulfilling. Most people had voted and I saw lots of No on 8 signs (though also a couple of Yes on 8 signs).

I managed to then get myself to my office for a few hours and somehow focused enough to get some work done. And then then the polls started closing at 3pm and 4pm. I kept reloading Talking Points Memo, Swing State Project, and CNN, getting some work done in between obsessively checking for results. By 5pm, no one in my office was fully concentrating on work anymore – we had one computer running the live feed from MSNBC while I kept reloading lots of pages. Once Pennsylvania was called, I felt like it was over already, but this was confirmed for me when Ohio was called. It started to sink in a bit – Barack Obama was going to be our next president.

I was starving so I grabbed some sushi at Ichiro and headed down to a friend’s office in uptown. We ate sushi and waited for the networks to formally call it for Obama. I called friends who had been working in swing states and congratulated them. I talked to my dad, who sounded like he was on the verge of tears. And then at 8:01, they called it. We all started crying, and shouting. My friend opened his window and shouted – and several people on the street responded with shouts of joy.

The night continued in this direction for hours. We headed over to the Marriott for Rebecca Kaplan’s victory party, and when we got there we found out she was up with more than 60% of the vote. We then found out that Measure KK in Berkeley was going down in flames. The two campaigns that I had dedicated nearly all my free time to over the past several months had won decisively. I felt proud of my work and proud of our country.

That feeling persisted for hours. Obama’s speech brought tears to my eyes. There were smiles on everyone’s faces as we congratulated Rebecca Kaplan and each other. When I headed back out, over to Radio, the streets were packed with people in cars and on foot. Most of them seemed to be headed to Jack London Square. There were hundreds of people in the streets in downtown Oakland and we were all celebrating. Inside Radio, everyone had huge smiles on their faces and at one point a crowd of people burst through the door chanting about Obama.

I managed to celebrate through most of the night, even though people kept telling me that Prop 8 was up (I refused to look at the numbers myself). I kept telling myself that the early voting was more heavily conservative and the first counties to report are always the inland counties. It would be hours before Alameda, San Francisco, and Los Angeles reported so why bother worrying?

But between midnight and 1am, the numbers were still looking pretty bad. I didn’t know what counties had been counted, but it started to look clear to me that Prop 8 was going to pass. I started to get sad and worried. The friend I was with convinced me to stop worrying – Los Angeles almost certainly still had more votes to count, and we both assumed LA would vote against 8.

Well, we were wrong. I got home a couple hours later and checked in on the vote. Prop 8 had definitely passed, and worse, Los Angeles had voted in favor of it. Also, Alameda and San Francisco had had abysmal turnout. It was clearly over, even though the No on 8 campaign wasn’t conceding.

I finally got to sleep at 5am and slept through most of the day. When I awoke, I surprised myself and felt cheerful, thinking about what it meant that Obama would be our next president. That feeling quickly faded though. Even as I looked through all the congratulatory emails from the No on KK campaign committee, I couldn’t bring a smile to my face. All I could think about was that more than half of Californian voters voted to write discrimination into the constitution. They voted to discriminate against me and so many others.

I also thought critically about Rebecca Kaplan’s win. When I was phoning last week for Kaplan and No on 8, I was surprised at how many people I talked to who were voting enthusiastically for Kaplan but were also voting enthusiastically for 8. I’m guessing most of those people knew little of Rebecca’s sexual orientation. But ultimately they voted a lesbian onto our city council and simultaneously voted to strip her of one of her most fundamental rights. So even here in Oakland, we have a long way to go.

A part of me knows that I should be celebrating right now. I helped win two very important local campaigns and our country is headed in a new direction (the seats Dems picked up in the House and the Senate will certainly help with that). But I can’t help feeling incredibly distraught and disillusioned. Though I’m still proud of myself and my country, I can’t bring myself to feel proud of California.