Clearly, Measure BB has some powerful backers. Of course, the big unions are supporting BB. They know which side their bread is buttered on. Same with the violence prevention non-profits, that get millions from Measure Y. And not surprisingly, most of the mayoral and council candidates support it too - it’ll make their jobs a lot easier if they have an extra $20 million of our money to play with. BB supporters have set up a fancy website (that doesn’t allow email inquiries) and sent out glossy fliers. But in the most recent poll figures that I’ve seen, voters don’t support it. (And we haven’t spent a dime.) And some important organizations that went through a formal or informal endorsement process ended up not supporting it either. The Measure Y Oversight Committee, the Alameda County Central Democratic Committee, and the Metropolitan Greater Oakland Democratic Club all officially decided to take no position on the measure.
Not that this stopped the Pro-BB folks from falsely claiming on their website that MGO has endorsed a “yes” vote. Why am I not surprised? Truth, integrity and accountability have never been the strong suit of any of these folks. And to make matters worse, we anti-BB folks contacted the person in charge of the Pro-BB folks (Jane Brunner) about the false endorsement, asking her to correct the website, and she’s done bupkiss. Again, can’t say I’m surprised.
Over the last week, KALW has been running a series covering the BB debate. You can find my abbreviated interview here. http://informant.kalwnews.org/2010/10/opinion-attorney-marleen-sacks-on-oaklands-public-safety-measures/. Local columnist Reverend Byron Williams also weighed in the issue here (coming down solidly anti-BB). http://informant.kalwnews.org/2010/10/opinion-rev-byron-williams-says-the-city-of-oakland-hasnt-been-frank-about-finances/. The pro-BB folks interviewed included Oakland non-profit director Esperanza Tervalon--Dumont http://informant.kalwnews.org/2010/10/opinionesperanza-tervalon-daumont-on-why-continuing-measure-y-parcel-tax-is-critical-to-public-safety/ and, of course, Council President Jane Brunner. http://informant.kalwnews.org/2010/10/opinion-oakland-city-council-president-jane-brunner-on-the-citys-economic-woes/
So I won’t respond to Ms. Tervalon-Dumont’s assertions because, frankly, she didn’t answer any of the questions. (On the other hand, I don’t know why the reporter posed those particular questions, because I wouldn’t have expected Ms. Tervalon-Dumont to have actually known the answers. In which case, she should have admitted she didn’t have the foggiest notion, but for whatever reason she chose not to do that, and just comes across as ignorant and evasive). But here‘s my reaction to Jane‘s interview:
Q: What has Measure Y done for Oakland?
Brunner: Measure Y has been terrific. So what it did is it hired 80 police officers.
Um, terrific? Wow. I’d love to be her waitress at Burger King. Maybe she’d leave me a 20% tip for the “terrific” service. Her standards are obviously pretty darn low. Moving along - hired 80 police officers? How could that possibly be? Only 63 are called for, and everybody agrees the funding was only there for quite a bit fewer than that. So how could 80 have been hired? Well, I did a public records request a while back seeking all documents supporting this claim, and not surprisingly, the City has none. So that’s a total lie. Moreover, Brunner doesn’t mention that we had the full complement of Measure Y officers for less than a year, and they’ve all been laid off now, so how terrific is that?
Q: How revolutionary was the measure when it passed?
Brunner: It was. Oakland tried before to get more money for police and it didn’t pass because people here really want to help do the prevention side. So this was a way to do 40 percent goes to prevention and 60 percent goes to police.
I agree it was revolutionary. I mean, every other city in the Bay Area had managed to pay for a full police force without a parcel tax. So demanding taxpayers pay extra, for a police force that everybody agreed was still way too small, sure was “revolutionary.”
Q: Why does the measure need to be fixed?
Brunner: We need a fix because, basically what it said was the city would guarantee there would be 739 officers. We did that when it was good economic times. We, the city could not afford that anymore.
Jane, be happy you weren’t under oath when you said that, because your lawyers have been claiming for years that Measure Y doesn’t actually require staffing of 739, but rather, merely “appropriation.” And if the “economic times” were so “good” back in 2004, why did you tell voters that the City was broke and didn’t have enough money for a full police force? As for now, you’re claiming the City can’t afford to even budget for 739 officers, how can you afford Kids First? How can you afford gold-plated pensions for City workers? Don’t tell me there wasn’t fat to cut out of the budget before police officers. Sorry, but I like Perata’s quote: If I can’t find 80 people to cut from the City payroll instead of police officers, fire me.
Q: There are some folks who are pretty disappointed with how the money has been spent.
Brunner: Well, you know, technically, they are technically correct. That the chief of police took some money and didn’t just spend it on other things, didn’t just spend it on other programs. He took some of the Measure Y money because we had to hire new officers and he spent it on training new officers. But because you want problem solving officers to be seasoned, there was a rule that you had to have two years of being in the force to become what we call a PSO. So what he did is he took the money, trained the new officers, and they took the place of older officers. The older officers became the PSO. And I don’t want to get into it because there’s all these lawsuits. But technically you could say that it wasn’t exactly the way it was supposed to be….But technically, if you read the language, a judge ruled that it wasn’t quite supposed to happen that way.
Jane, if the City had actually used the money to hire new officers, and the veteran officers were placed into Measure Y positions in their stead, none of us would have ever known about it and there wouldn’t have been “all these lawsuits.” The reality is, the City used Measure Y funds to pay for non-Measure Y officers, and then never filled the Measure Y positions.
Q: What about what some say is a lack of oversight?
Brunner: No there’s auditing. And they know exactly where all the money comes from.
I got a laugh out of that one. The issue isn’t where the money is coming from. We all know that - it comes from US! The issue is - where is the money going TO?
Q: Was the city aware when it put out Measure Y that it was not enough money to fund what it promised?
Brunner: You know, I’m going to say that it was never made public, I had no idea. But I have learned since that there was one or two people who knew that Measure Y was not funding itself and they did not make that public. So they didn’t make it public to me when I was voting on it to put it on the ballot. I think that was unconscionable.
Well, Jane, the City auditor certified that the funds generated were sufficient to pay for the purposes, and that’s what it said in the Voter Information Pamphlet. I agree that it is unconscionable that voters are misled and lied to in the Voter Information Pamphlet. Fool us once, shame on us. Fool us twice, ain’t gonna happen - we ain’t gonna vote for BB, and you have only yourselves to blame.