Thursday, August 29, 2013

Measure Y Oversight Committee Inappropriately Meets To Brainstorm "Son of Measure Y"

Dear Oakland Officials:

I just reviewed the agenda for your upcoming "retreat" on September 4, 2013 where you will be discussing options for what should be included in a potential successor to Measure Y, which expires at the end of 2014.  I am writing to advise you that this discussion is inappropriate and is an improper use of City time and resources for political activities.

While the City has the option of drafting a new measure to replace Measure Y next year, to date, no formal discussions or actions on that topic have been scheduled.  To date, I am unaware of any public official who has asked for the opinion or input of the Measure Y Oversight Committee regarding Measure Y's successes and failures.  According to the Measure Y website,  your stated purpose is to "oversee the proper administration of the revenue collection and spending, and the implementation of the programs funded through Measure Y revenue."  It is neither your function nor your place to spend City time and resources trying to brainstorm what a replacement to Measure Y should include.  Any discussion on such topics is outside your jurisdiction and would be considered in political activity - i.e. advocating for the drafting and passage of a new measure.  (Nowhere in the agenda is there any room for discussion on the option of not renewing Measure Y, further supporting the impression that this meeting is inappropriately political.)

Based on the proposed agenda, I think we can all agree that Measure Y has been a huge failure. .  It took many years and litigation  for the PSO positions to actually get filled.  Shortly after they were filled, the number of PSOs was cut in half.  Now, PSOs are in charge of ridiculously large beats and are not sufficiently responsive to the community.  The police staffing minimum was then eliminated, resulting in the size of the police force drastically shrinking, when the main purpose of Measure Y was to increase the size of the force to 803.  The violence prevention programs have minimal to no measurable outcomes.  Violence in Oakland has dramatically increased in the years since Measure Y was adopted, contrary to its intent.  The proof, Oakland officials, is in the pudding.  

Notably, if your committee had spent more time and effort actually ensuring that the commitments of Measure Y were fulfilled, Measure Y would not have been such a dismal failure.  You share in the blame for Measure Y's failures.  But Measure Y still has 1 1/2 years to go, and there are still many things you can do to try to redeem yourselves and improve accountability.  Instead, you are choosing to waste your time and City resources engaging in what I consider to be overtly political activity - brainstorming how to come up with a replacement "Measure Y."  Again, you have no business engaging in such a discussion and I urge you to cancel the meeting, or modify the agenda to include a discussion of topics that are actually within your purview.

Marleen L. Sacks 


  1. I have heard that there is more-than-one brainstorming effort to resuscitate Y. The problem for all Oaklanders is that if (or when) Y, or a replacement, disappears completely, then there will be even fewer cops. Y funds are needed to maintain even our currently too-small police department.

    The heart of the problem is as Marleen points out--Y is in every significant way a failure. It is not just the Oversight Committee's failure but the failure of the Council and Mayor to modify and improve Y on an ongoing basis so that a replacement parcel tax would have some public support in 2014. Many community groups have pointed this out to Oakland electeds over the years, to fall on deaf ears.

    Measure Y functions well only as a political slush fund delivering tax money to vested interests which turn out the vote for incumbents.

  2. Don't fall for extortion by City Hall, "If you don't give us a new Measure Y tax, we will cut police staffing."

    For ten years they took Y money for other uses. (The method was to spend Y money on the police department while tamping down general fund support for OPD.) When the taxes end, the diversions can end, too - cut paper pushers hired as flunkies for top officials, cut waste in the social programs, and more.

    If Jean Quan runs for mayor and if a tax proposal continues to waste money on failed social programs, vote No!

  3. Anti-government tirades are familiar reactionary boilerplate. Oakland has a failed government, which is quite a different thing from asserting that government, or taxes, are generally failed enterprises. A new, less corrupt and stupified City Council and Mayor in Oakland could make a great difference not only in public safety but in virtually every aspect of civic life.