For you property owners out there, you probably got your tax bills today, or will soon. On the bill you will see two entries for “Violence Prevention Tax” - one for 2011, and one for 2012. The first is for $91.38, the second for $92.62. So even though the police force is dropping, your tax is still going up. And why are there two entries on your bill? Because in 2010, they laid off 80 officers, didn’t “appropriate” sufficient funds to justify collecting the tax, and couldn’t legally collect the tax. So it wasn’t collected last year. But then over 66% of voters approved Measure BB, which permitted the City to continue collecting the tax, no matter how small our police force got, and also permitted the City to collect the tax retroactively. If you didn’t vote for BB, good for you. But if you did, you don’t have any right to complain. Oh, and more bad news - our ad valorem tax rate went up again as well.
I am sad, but not surprised, to see Chief Batts announce his resignation today. While he was fairly diplomatic in his comments, I think most of us understand why he just couldn’t take it anymore. At last week’s council meeting, after speaking out in support of youth curfews, expanded gang injunctions, and anti-loitering ordinances, an angry mob of gangsters, wannabe gangsters, and their friends and relatives crowded the chambers and loudly, rudely and angrily booed, hissed and mocked him and anyone else who spoke out in favor of these potentially game-changing measures. He had to just roll his eyes and think to himself, “who are these animals and why should I care if they or their relatives get popped in the street? They are not ready for civility, peace and respect in their neighborhoods. “
What is unfortunate, however, is that this loud, angry mob does not actually speak for the majority of Oaklanders. And yet four of the Council members allowed themselves to be swayed by the mob mentality; Quan broke the tie and essentially killed the measures by sending them back to committee. Notably, the mob was appeared to be mobilized largely by Michael Siegel, son and legal associate of Dan Siegel, Quan’s personal legal advisor. Of course.
And that was just the icing on the cake, after Quan laid off 80 police officers. Batts announced he needed 925 officers to get the job done. Now we have 650, and the number is dropping every month. Quan could have proposed a parcel tax that would have dedicated all of the funds toward increased police staffing. But instead, she put forward a proposal that dedicates none.
OPOA’s juvenile tactics certainly didn’t help either. Batts recently announced a policy prohibiting profanity. OPOA union president Dom Arotzarena publicly scorned the policy, claiming that officers couldn’t get their jobs done unless they were allowed to cuss in the workplace, or to citizens, for fear of seeming “soft.” Other officers joined in mocking the new policy. Excuse me? A force that is still reeling from the humiliation of the Riders scandal thinks its appropriate to direct profanity toward citizens? I don’t care if the suspect is armed, dangerous, and a confirmed sociopath - there is no research showing that using the “F” word will somehow diffuse the situation. Again, Batts must have read Arotzarena’s quotes in the Wall Street Journal, rolled his eyes and thought, “WTF?” (But he would have the decency and professionalism not to say it!)
If there is one silver lining to this cloud, I hope that Batts’ departure is a wake up call. When the City Attorney resigns, calling the leadership “morally corrupt,” and when the police chief resigns shortly thereafter, accusing the leadership of tying his hands and not allowing him to do his job, citizens need to realize who is running this City, and that it will never get any better unless they are voted out of office and replaced with individuals with the courage and integrity to make public safety our number one priority, even if it means making a the criminal element, and the supporters of their “civil liberties,“ unhappy. Our leadership has catered to that element for far too long, and the proof is in the pudding - it ain’t working.