After three and half years of litigation against the City of Oakland over Measure Y, I have decided not to appeal the latest decision. As you may recall, the judge issued a tentative ruling in favor of the City on all causes of action. The lead claim I made was that the City deliberately failed to fund police academies, and continued to collect Measure Y taxes, prior to the Measure BB amendment. I also alleged that the City failed to staff the Measure Y funded crime reduction team positions, and deployed Measure Y funded Problem Solving Officers away from their beats for months at a time. Also included were claims that the City repeatedly failed to respond to public records requests in a timely manner, and that the Executive Director of the Public Ethics Commission failed to process my complaint within the timelines mandated by the PEC’s own internal regulations.
Notably, the City never disputed the main facts. They pretty much had to admit they didn’t properly fund police academies. They couldn’t deny that the size of the police force plummeted, and that this was a deliberate decision designed to save money. Their defense was that the language of Measure Y didn’t specifically require funding for academies, never mind that without them, staffing numbers couldn’t be maintained.
Nor could they deny that the CRT and PSO positions weren’t filled. Their defense: the positions were filled by the time we went to trial. They also could not deny that they failed to comply with the PRA. Their defense: I submitted a lot of requests, and they gave me a lot of documents, which I eventually got, so I should just quit griping. With respect to the PEC issue, they claimed that the PEC eventually did hear my complaint, and any violations of the internal regulations were “de minimus.” I don’t see how a six month delay is “de minimus,” but anyway, for whatever reason, the judge, without specifically addressing that the facts were overwhelmingly in my favor, and that the intent of the statutes was overwhelmingly in my favor, still ruled against me.
I could appeal. But then I have to consider, what for? A $90 tax refund? By the time we got a decision, Measure Y would be almost expired anyway. The lost services from the officers we were promised, but never got, can never be recovered. The lost lives, lost security, and lost property due to these violations, can never be recovered. Also, the costs to me, in terms of my time and my money, have been enormous. I have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars of my own money, and at some point, I just have to cut my losses.
Not that my battles have been entirely in vain. The PEC has been holding hearings on improving access to public records, and I am hopeful that by the end of the year, new policies and procedures will be in place to prevent the types of violations I was seeing on a regular basis. The City has had to conduct mandatory audits as a result of my first lawsuit. I am also hopeful that my litigation, and the publicity surrounding it, has helped inform Oakland residents about the numerous past violations and broken promises, and will serve as an incentive for them to reject the next parcel tax coming down the pike, which in turn should help force the City into making meaningful, structural changes to address the budget crisis. I also hope that the thousands of hours the City has had to spend in attorney and employee time will also make them think twice before violating parcel tax measures in the future.
And for the record, I know I’m right, the court’s decision notwithstanding. The fact that the Pope rejected the notion that the earth revolved around the sun did not make Galileo or Copernicus wrong. They were vindicated by history in the end. Can the City of Oakland claim “#winning”? Pretty much the same way Charlie Sheen can. The proof is in the pudding. If winning means a police force half the size of what it should be, a skyrocketing murder rate, decimated community policing, looming bankruptcy, a loss of trust from the electorate, and likely rejection of any future parcel tax measures, then yes, they can claim victory. But I don’t call that victory. And what does it say when the City Attorney resigns in the middle of his term, calling City leadership “morally corrupt?”
In addition to quoting this year’s most notorious "#winning" loser, I’ll conclude with two additional quotations that came to mind as I temporarily lay down my sword:
“I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately triumph than to triumph in a cause that will ultimately fail.” - Woodrow Wilson
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt