For nearly three years, I have been litigating against the City to help improve public safety and accountability. The City promised us 803 officers under Measure Y, and we got that staffing for less than six months. I kept hoping to be able to negotiate a settlement with the City, under which they would agree to obligate themselves to the promised staffing after Measure Y expired. Even after the passage of Measure BB, I thought there was room to negotiate. But folks, it's not going to happen. The City is not going to honor its public safety commitments any time in the near future. We had a settlement meeting a couple of weeks ago, and it was a complete waste of time.
So what that means is that this lawsuit is going to go to trial. And unless the judge is willing to explore novel and imaginative ways to compensate the citizens of Oakland for the public safety improvements we never got, this case is going to be about refunding the taxpayers the Measure Y funds for which they got no bang for buck. Honestly, I was hoping it would never come down to this. I know there are people out there who think I'm just some die-hard anti-tax tea partier, but I'm not. I voted for Measure Y. And I don't think forcing the City to pay back $20 million in illegally collected taxes will make Oakland a better place. But that's the most obvious remedy. If you want your money back, the Court and the City are likely going to demand that you file a claim first. Which, of course, most people won't do, but if you want to send the City a message, you better do it. And you better do it now.
Under Measure Y, you need to file a claim withhin a year of paying your taxes. The first installment is due in November, and the second installment is due in the spring. So you need to file your claim now or the City could deny it as late. In fact, they might still do that. And after I win, and the general public hears that the City illegally collected Measure Y taxes in 2009/10, then a lot more people are going to want their money back. And the City will no doubt claim, "oh, sorry about that, but you needed to have filed a claim first, and since you didn't follow the law and file your claim within the deadlines, well then, your SOL, too bad." And then a ton of people will be really pissed off at the City for being corrupt, disingenuous thieves. And then maybe my message will finally get across. But I can tell you, so far, nobody's listening.
And I can also tell you that there is absolutely no question that the City illegally collected Measure Y taxes in 2009/10. Measure Y says that in order to collect the tax, the City has to "appropriate" sufficient funds to maintain staffing at 739 non-Measure Y officers. There is no question that the City did NOT do this. The documentation shows that as of December, 2008, the City knew that it would need to "appropriate" approximately $9 to $10 million annually to maintain full staffing at 803 officers. As of November, 2009, it had appropriated a grand total of zero dollars for police recruitment and academy training, and staffing was well below its authorized strength at that time. In fact, it didn't appropriate any funding for academies until February, 2010, and that was more than $8 million less than what was necessary, and staffing was already below 770. So they are totally dead in the water. They didn't staff at the promised levels, and they didn't "appropriate" to maintain staffing at the promised levels. The tax was illegal. Period. End of story.
Not that anybody's apologizing for any of this. For the last two weeks I've had the pleasure of taking various City officials' depositions and watch them squirm and deny and evade and avoid the obvious truth that Measure Y has been betrayed, and that public safety is compromised. With no apologies, and no settlement, this case is going to trial in March, 2011.
To file your claim, I'm reprinting the instructions from my previous post on this topic below, Feel free to cut and paste. If your claim is denied, make sure you appeal that denial to the "Business Tax Review Board" within 60 days. Good luck!
Director of Finance
Finance & Management Agency
City of Oakland City Hall
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Oakland, CA 94612
Re: Claim for Measure Y Refund
To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the terms of Measure Y, please consider this a request for a refund for Measure Y taxes collected in 2008 and 2009. The basis for the refund claim is the City’s continued violation of numerous aspects of Measure Y, as outlined in [ ] previous litigation (Sacks v. City of Oakland) and previous recent correspondence with the City Attorney’s Office. Specifically, Measure Y provides: “Minimum Police Staffing Prerequisite at Fiscal Year 03/04 Level - No tax authorized by this ordinance may be collected in any year that the appropriation for staffing of sworn uniformed police officers is at a level lower than the amount necessary to maintain the number of uniformed officers employed by the City of Oakland for the Fiscal Year 03-04 (739).”
Last fall, the City of Oakland cancelled the 166th police academy. In the Spring of 2009 the City adopted a budget that contained no appropriations for additional police academies. As a result, the police force has dropped below 802 (its authorized strength). Therefore, the City failed to appropriate sufficient non Measure Y funds to maintain the police force at 739 and is in violation of Measure Y. Collection of the tax is patently illegal.
I [ ] received my 2009 Secured Property Tax Statement indicating a Measure Y tax for $90.72. Last year the tax was for $88.00. For most of 2008, the police force was under its authorized strength of 802 officers as well, and the City failed to appropriate sufficient funds for that year as well. On this basis, I am claiming a refund for both years. I look forward to receiving a prompt response to this demand.