As you are hopefully aware, there are lots of people running for vacant and non-vacant City Council seats this election season. Make Oakland Better Now submitted a survey to all the candidates to give them an opportunity to explain their positions on several important issues facing the City. One of the questions posed was as follows: "Measure Y expires at the end of 2014. Has it worked? Will you vote to renew it? What changes, if any, would you like to see if it’s renewed?" You can check out all of the candidates' responses to the questions here: http://makeoaklandbetternow.org/Default.aspx Here's my take on how some of the main contenders responded:
Ignacio De La Fuente - At Large: Grade - D. De La Fuente says that he thinks "Measure Y has worked, to some degree..." He acknowledges that "it is unfortunate that the measure Y funding process has become such a political game that has resulted in the continued funding of organizations that are not delivering the outcomes they promised." However, he claims that the community policing aspect of Measure Y has worked, without acknowledging two critical failures: we got the 803 officers promised for less than 6 months out of the 10 years promised; and the number of beats currently being staffed has been cut in half. Without acknowledging these two appalling failures, I cannot trust that Mr. De La Fuente will do what is necessary in the coming term. He is also incredibly vague on the conditions that would need to be in place before voting to renew it, stating: "I would vote to renew measure Y but only with a strong revision to the accountability and oversight of any new measure that is crafted."
Rebecca Kaplan - At large: Grade - B. Kaplan acknowledges at least some of Measure Y's implementation failures. She specifically acknowledges that the goal of the voters in 2004 was to expand the force to 803 officers, and that when we got the promised staffing (finally), crime went down. She points out that De La Fuente voted for police layoffs, and she didn't. She also notes that in order to support a Measure Y renewal, she would recommend "more specific and
enforceable deployment requirements," as well as an end to the exemption for vacant properties, and strengthening accountability provisions. While she doesn't acknowledge the three lawsuits, the failure to give each beat their own PSO, or the political game in doling out violence prevention funds, her acknowledging the staffing problems gives her far more credibility than her opponent here.
Lynette Gibson-McElhaney - District 3: Grade -D. Her response to the question is so vague and meaningless that it is evident that she knows virtually nothing about Measure Y, its intentions, or its failures. Her response is basically, "blah, blah blah."
Sean Sullivan - District 3: Grade - C+. Sullivan acknowledges that "Measure Y has been undermined by bureaucracy, cronyism and lack of leadership from the city council." However, his focus (as expected) is on the violence-prevention aspect of Measure Y, and faults Measure Y for not having a "jobs" aspect. Sorry, but Measure Y is already about too many things, and adding a jobs component would just detract from what I think the focus should be - increased police staffing. While he acknolwedges that police staffing should be addressed, he doesn't emphasize the need for guaranteed increased staffing, nor does he acknowledge the clear connection between increased staffing and reduced crime. Kudos to Sullivan for acknowledging that "passage of another Measure Y is greatly in doubt under the shadow of the lies, promise breaking of Measure BB and administration of the program by someone ill qualified for the job." (Sullivan is clearly referring to the recent scandal uncovered by the Oakland Tribune regarding Jeff Baker).
Alex Miller-Cole - District 3: Grade - F. I don't know who this guy is but he seems to know next to nothing about Measure Y. Here's his response, which says it all: " I feel that with better accountability and oversight, Measure Y could have a greater impact on Oakland’s citizens. If the appropriate changes were made in those areas, I would vote to renew it. As council member, I would push for an improvement in accountability and oversight. Measurable outcomes with independent
verification must be integrated into whatever succeeds Measure Y."
Larry Lionel Young Jr. - District 3: Grade - F. First, this guy's lack of literacy skills is apparent. He can barely put a coherent sentence together. Next, his priority appears to be the "hire Oakland first" policy (i.e. priority for hiring officers who live in Oakland, although he doesn't bother to explain that). Apparently Mr. Young doesn't know that residency requirements are illegal in California, and I hardly think even a "preference" would pass legal muster, let alone have any impact on crime. His stunning moment of insight is that "the parcel tax should represent the parcel that is being taxed, this way taxes can be proper and fair according to the personal asset." Huh? Then he tries (unsuccessfully) to explain that the tax should be based on assessed value, which of course is not authorized under existing law regarding parcel taxes.
Derrick Muhammed - District 3: Grade - F-. Here's why: " I believe it has worked. I will vote to renew."
Dan Kalb - District 1: Grade - D. Kalb once referred to me as a "Tea Partier," so I have never been a fan. But that aside, it is evident that Kalb is likely to endorse renewal of Measure Y no matter what. While acknowledging it hasn't "met expectations," he doesn't squarely deal with its obvious failures. He says he will "lead" the campaign to renew Measure Y, and only wants the following changes: "Reduce the fire department’s portion by $500,000....Put more emphasis on effective anti-recidivism program.... Hire evaluators who take the job of evaluation seriously and are not afraid to be critical....Increase the per parcel assessment from $90 to somewhere between $105 and $110." He says nothing about otherwise improving accountability for violence prevention programs, or, more importantly, assuring an overall increase in police staffing, which was always one of the main goals.
Len Raphael - District 1: Grade - B-. Len worked with me on the campaign to defeat Measure I, the most recent new parcel tax, so he knows the background and his heart and brain are in the right place. Most importantly, he acknowledges Measure Y's abysmal failures front and center, stating: "Measure Y has failed in every respect: violence has not decreased and we do not have the mandated
number of problem solving officers." He also notes that the violence prevention programs are "patronage vehicles," which is true. However, his focus is on the RDA evaluation report, which nobody knows about, and which focused primarily on violence prevention programs, not police staffing issues. He also focuses on evaluations and data-driven programs, which is just more "blah blah blah." What we really need is guaranteed additional staffing, and Len unfortunately does not address this. Lastly, he doesn't address the question of under what circumstances he would approve a renewal of Measure Y.
Amy Lemley - District 1: Grade - D. Lemley starts out by acknowledging that Measure Y has not worked as promised, but then goes on to demonstrate her manifest ignorance of Measure BB, which took away the mandate that the City "appropriate" enough funds for staffing 739 officers. Lemley seems not to even know that Measure BB passed! Also, her estimate on how much of the funding goes to OPD is off by a couple million dollars. However, what's a few million dollars to candidates for Oakland City Council? Lemley states she will make renewal of a "reformed" Measure Y part of her campaign, but doesn't say specifically what changes are necessary, other than the changes made by Measure BB, which she seems to be unaware of.
Don Link - District 1: Grade -B-. Link knows his Measure Y facts, for the most part. Link starts off with a positive spin, claiming that Measure Y "has worked overall with important caveats." His first caveat has to do with firehouses, which, I am sorry, is just not the biggest failure by a long shot. He then acknowledges that increased staffing reduced crime, and also acknowledges that Measure Y was "compromised" when Dellums authorized $8 million of Measure Y funds to pay for recruitment and training that wasn't authorized. (The subject of my first lawsuit). He also acknowledges that OPD has cut the number of PSOs in half, and that claiming that this meets the requirements of Measure Y is disingenuous. While Link states any renewal of Measure Y should require staffing of all 57 beats, as originally required, he fails to insist on mandatory staffing at 803, as originally promised.
Noel Gallo - District 5: Grade - D+. Gallo demonstrates minimal knowledge of Measure Y. He says he supports the purposes of the Measure, acknowledges Oakland's high crime rate, but then says his priority is to fund a "greater variety" of violence prevention programs. Sorry, but if the City can't even manage to monitor the ones currently funded, reducing the number of programs would seem to be the better ideas. He also seems to support the idea of hiring more officers, but doesn't insist on any particular mandate as a condition of renewal. In addition, he says something about how he does not support "reimbursing the City for the cost of services during the period of time that the City
did not collect Measure Y." What does that mean? I have no idea. Yes, Measure Y was not collected for one year, but then it was double-collected the following year. So what is he talking about?
Mario Juarez - District 5: - Grade - C-. Juarez acknowledges outright that " Measure Y has not worked. It has lacked responsible accountability, authoritative oversight and it has defrauded citizens." However, he lacks any specifics on what conditions he would place on renewing it, noting: "I would not vote to renew it unless there was a way to assure that the money is spent as
promised." He states he'd like to see more PSOs, better training and a focus on investigative services. However, this doesn't address Measure Y's critical past failures, i.e. the failure to maintain a specific level of staffing or number of PSOs. He also gives the usual "blah, blah blah" about including stakeholders in developing a "city-wide strategy." No, forget all this emphasis on strategy. Just fill the positions, for goodness sake!