Dear Members of the City Council
I have now reviewed the most recent version of the language being proposed for the "new" Measure Y and it is insufficient in terms of accountability and the supposed staffing minimum.
First, it does not actually require staffing of 700 officers as a precondition of collecting the tax. Rather, it includes only the similar "budgeting/allocation" language from the original Measure Y, up until July 1, 2016. As we already know, the City has routinely budgeted for OPD staffing well in excess of actual staffing for the past several years. Police officers on paper only do not protect us. For public safety to be real, we need actual officers on the streets.
In addition, the proposed language does not require staffing of 700 officers by a reasonable date. The date inserted into the new measure is July 1, 2016. That is two years from now. It should not take two years to get us to 700 officers, particularly given that we were at 739 officers when Measure Y first passed, and given that we are at 646 now (still lower than when Mayor Quan was elected). With over $20 million available under the new tax, there is no reason why staffing cannot and should not be at 700 by July 1, 2015 at the very latest.
700 officers is far too low a number. When we were initially asked to approve Measure Y in 2004, staffing stood at approximately 739; we were promised staffing at 803. Most experts opine that Oakland needs closer to 900 or 1000 officers for full staffing. At a minimum, the City should provide the same 739 we were promised under the original Measure Y as a precondition of collecting the tax.
Lastly, Oakland should not have to forever depend on special taxes for a police force that is still 200 officers lower than what the baseline should be. There needs to be a provision in the tax to wean the city off this tax, so that the City can fully fund a police force of at least 900 officers out of the general fund within 10 years. Without this, you are going to be in the same situation in 10 years that you are in now - begging taxpayers weary of special taxes and broken promises.
In its current form, I cannot support the measure. I request that you consider the changes I am proposing and give the taxpayers real and meaningful assurances of improved public safety and accountability.