Councilmembers Propose Police Reform Budget That Saves City Services

Councilmembers, from left to right: Noel Gallo, Desley Brooks and Larry Reid. Photo by Adam L. Turner.

By Ken A. Epstein Three Oakland Councilmembers – Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo and Larry Reid – have submitted an alternative city budget that they say will not just throw money at the police department but will increase public safety and invest in the whole city, “including front line services, because we believe (residents) deserve a safe city, a clean city, a livable city and a city that honors and respects its employees.” “Our proposal funds the exact same number of officers as those proposed in both the mayor’s and the Council President (Pat) Kernighan’s proposals,” the three councilmembers’ statement said, adding that the city will end the fiscal year with revenues approximately $15 million higher than anticipated. Unlike the other two proposals, the alternative budget proposal includes $1.85 million dollars to fund the compliance director’s remedial action plan designed to help the police department to institute constitutional policing required by federal Judge Thelton Henderson. Their proposal includes funding for follow up on confirmed fingerprint identifications that will help in solving burglaries and robberies; funding for improved radio equipment; funding for less lethal weapons; funding for training for our officers; funding for modification of the police department’s background check process to free up sworn officers to do police work. “We rejected the mayor’s proposal to add five additional dispatchers at OPD for the simple fact that there are a number of vacant positions within this unit. Currently OPD has a dispatcher position (vacant since November 2012), two communication operator positions (vacant since May 2012) and others.” Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney says she sees merits in all of the budget proposals. “I think all of the budgets present an opportunity for robust discussions,” she said. “(The three councilmembers have put forward a budget that looks at environmental concerns, and those needs are critical. I don’t think any of the budget proposals out there right now will as be accepted in whole.” The alternative budget proposal also pointed to the sizable commitment of resources the city has devoted recently to public safety. “In the past eight months the council has approved funding for two academies, over $1 million for the California Highway Patrol Contract, $350,000 for the Bratton/Wasserman contract, $200,000 for the Alameda County Sheriff’s contract. We now have a new police chief, the Bratton/Wasserman plan, the Frazier plan, and we have already graduated one academy class.” While hopeful that these expenditures will produce results, the three councilmembers called for a balanced approach to funding city services. “We can ill-afford to fund one department to the exclusion of the other departments of the city,” they wrote. “The main differences between the Brooks, Reid, Gallo proposal and the Kernighan proposal do not have to do with public safety. They have to do with our approach to how we create a safe, clean city that takes into account the needs of all of its residents.” Many streets and neighborhoods throughout the city are “filthy with illegal dumping, graffiti, and blight – all of which contribute to crime in our neighborhoods,” according to their proposal, which includes $3,185,489 dollars per year to combat these forms of blight. Kernighan’s budget proposes $40,000 for paint to help abate graffiti and only $232,352 for additional code inspectors, they wrote. The councilmember say their proposal calls for the full restoration of Head Start, while Kernighan’s would only restore Head Start program in her district. In addition, they rejected Kernighan’s and the mayor’s proposals to add top administrative staff.. “We rejected (Mayor Quan’s) proposal to add three more positions to the City Attorney’s office for a cost of $1,231,304 over two years; …. to add one additional staff member to her office for a total cost of $239,000 and … (and) to add an additional staff member to the City Administrator’s office for a total cost of $238,603,” they wrote. “Kernighan proposal not only accepts all the above positions, it adds another three positions to the City Attorney’s office for a grand total cost of $1,846,956.” The three councilmember’s budget also calls for raises for city employees, who have given up 25 percent of their salaries since 2007. “We have a significant number of employees who have lost their homes due to foreclosure; (and) we have employees who work full time at the city and then go to work at a part-time job to make ends meet.” The City Councilmembers are requesting comments on their alternative budget at DL-CouncilMembers@oaklandnet.com . To read the full text of the councilmembers’ explanation of their proposed budget, go to www.postnewsgroup.com.
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