As you all know, one of the main allegations in my pending lawsuit is that the City violated Measure Y in 2009/10 when it failed to “appropriate” sufficient general fund money to “maintain” 739 officers, and yet, continued to collect Measure Y taxes. So what did the City do? It put Measure BB on the ballot, and changed the law, so that now it can collect Measure Y taxes no matter how small the police force gets. No need to beat that dead horse.
But another claim in my lawsuit that I haven’t really discussed is the fact that City has awarded millions and millions of dollars in Measure Y funds to non-profits without any competitive bidding or “request for proposal” process. As anybody who has ever solicited “bids” on a project knows (for auto or home repairs), the idea is to ensure that you get the best service for the lowest cost. This is particularly important for public entities, where there’s all sorts of temptation and incentives to award contracts for other reasons, like the guy that fixes sewer lines is the City Councilman’s brother -in-law, or that little law firm that handles collections donated a lot of money to so-and-so. Patronage, I believe it’s called. Anyway, to avoid these scams, there are numerous statutes in the Public Contracts Code requiring bidding, as well as in Oakland’s own City ordinances. But the City has been violating the laws for years, and not just with Measure Y money. They have defended the practice, arguing that competitive bidding doesn’t apply to “grants.”
Well, what the heck is a “grant?” It is defined nowhere in any City ordinance. The dictionary definition is “a sum of money given especially by the government to a person or organization for a special purpose.” Can you think of any logical reason why the government should dole out grants without some sort of bidding process? Well, patronage comes to mind. Notably, there is no exception in the Oakland Municipal Code for awards of “grants.” Well, there wasn’t. Until last month. When unbeknownst to me, the City Council quietly amended the Municipal Code to “clarify” that grants were not encompassed in any bidding requirements ordinarily applicable to contracts for goods and services. It passed unanimously on January 18, 2011 by the City Council. Ironically, the same day that my litigation settlement proposal was considered by the Council in closed session (and summarily rejected). Coincidence? I think not!
So there you have it, folks. The City is mired in debt. It doesn’t have any money to pay for basic services. And yet, it wants to be free to dole out millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to whichever nonprofit yells the loudest at Council meetings; whoever has made the appropriate donations/bribes to the appropriate government officials; whoever has paid their dues walking the streets garnering support for the latest parcel tax. And it just gave itself unanimous permission to do so. Why obey the law, when you can just change it to suit your needs? No need, when you’re the City of Oakland.