In 2004, Oakland officials put Measure Y on the ballot. Jean Quan, then a City Councilmember, “guaranteed“ that Measure Y would give us 63 additional officers, for a total of 802, for 10 years. Quan was quoted by the Oakland Tribune at the time: “…the money raised by Measure Y will be used will be used to expand the department to 802 officers…All of us have to run for re-election – none of us would break such an obvious promise.“
Seven years and three lawsuits later, after having received approximately $120 million from the generous taxpayers who approved Measure Y, we have a total of 650 officers, and the force is shrinking every month. Obviously, they broke their promises. And this isn’t the only broken promise on Oakland’s record. Measure Q promised that all branch libraries would be open six days a week. Today, none of them are, but the tax is still being collected.
Now, City officials are once again asking Oakland’s already financially strapped taxpayers to approve yet another parcel tax. Measure I will cost Oakland homeowners approximately $400 each over the next five years, and renters will also be subject to the tax. To their credit, Oakland officials have learned something from the failures of Measure Y. They learned that they are incapable of keeping their promises. So this time around, they aren’t making any promises, which you will see if you read the actual ballot measure. Measure I is a $55 million blank check.
The propaganda in favor of the measure is business as usual, however. Knowing full well that political flyers aren’t legally binding, proponents are trying to convince voters that the approximately $11 million annual tax will help “restore” a whole panoply of services. But the actual language of Measure I does not provide for improvements in any public services. It does not include any provisions for additional police, improved roads, increased library hours, or additional park maintenance. It is a blank check, a general tax disguised as a special tax, with even less oversight and accountability than the failed Measure Y.
Proponents blame the “global recession” for Oakland’s financial problems. Except that this isn’t true. Oakland was claiming it was broke and needed Measure Y taxes back in 2004 - the height of the economic boom. Supporters are also trying to convince taxpayers that they need to do their “fair share” by paying more. Except that we already pay far more in property taxes than most other cities in California. In fact, on a $500,000 home, Oakland homeowners pay over $1700 more a year than those in San Francisco! And while most union concessions are for two or three years, this tax lasts for five, which is not “fair” either.
Supporters of the new tax are the same City officials who have mismanaged Oakland’s finances for years - the same leadership that Oakland’s own former City Attorney recently called “morally corrupt.” Measure I will do nothing to solve Oakland’s fiscal mess, or to address the fact that Oakland is over $450 million in debt for pension obligations it can’t afford. Oakland has no long-term plan on how to create fiscal sustainability, and this tax is nothing but a Band-aid on a gaping wound. Vote No on Measure I.