Affordable housing, parks, illegal dumping, potholes are top priorities
In an unusual unanimous vote, the Oakland City Council passed the Oakland Together budget that included $44.4 million in amendments to the administration’s original proposal, focusing city investments on the homeless crisis, affordable housing, maintaining local parks and tackling illegal blight remediation.
The Oakland Together budget, approved on June 24, also restored cuts to Parks Maintenance positions and increased funding around police accountability and workforce development.
The budget was introduced by Council President Rebecca Kaplan together with Councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor, and Sheng Thao.
“I want to thank my colleagues for working hard to provide for the needs of our community,” said Council President Kaplan. “A special thank you to Councilmembers Thao, Bas and Taylor for serving on the budget team, and to Councilmembers McElhaney and Kalb for their thoughtful amendments. And to Vice Mayor Reid and Councilmember Gallo for their successful advocacy for pro-active illegal dumping removal and cracking down on people who trash Oakland. “Although we made significant progress, there is still critical work to do including valuing working people and increasing funding for workforce development.”
One key inclusion for police reform was funding to study the CAHOOTS model of sending EMT and mental health workers to respond to appropriate 911 calls reducing the need for police to intervene in an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.
For housing and unsheltered neighbors there is funding for mobile showers and restrooms, a navigation center, a tiny house village project and additional safe parking sites.
The Oakland Together budget adds funding for food security and healthy options by adding funding to Meals on Wheels and the Alameda Food Bank and piloting a healthy food conversion program in corner stores in East and West Oakland.
To alleviate blight and illegal dumping, the Council added a fourth illegal dumping crew, additional cameras and enforcement measures, and an educational outreach program to assure that people know Oakland is not the place to dump their trash; and assist homeowners and other small property owners in adding an Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or other projects to their properties, the budget adds evening hours at the permit desks for planning/building.
The budget amendments secured funding for workforce development programs, and the council still needs to assure the programs are fully funded and working to help unemployed and underemployed community members get the training they need to secure living wage jobs, said Kaplan. Employment in the Black community is much higher than their unemployed white counterparts, and a thriving workforce development program that focuses on equity is a solid step to balance the inequity, she said.
There is also the issue of impact fees. It is important to have transparency around funds paid to the city for the benefit of community.
Finally, city staff gave much in the downturn, some even count among Oakland’s working homeless. It’s time to thank them for making the sacrifices the city needed and reward them with a contract that shows that residents value the work they do every day to keep the city running efficiently and effectively, said Kaplan.