Which Community Programs Live?

Civic-minded Oaklanders typically support and vote for community programs that help kids, elderly and everyone in between.  This seems rather natural to do, but now our choices aren’t that cut and dry.

On the November ballot, there’s something called Measure OO, which ensures funding for kids’ after-school programs and more.  This measure effectively “earmarks” $26 million annually in the city budget.

Why Vote For Or Against OO:

Vote For: Advocates say the programs must be secured, since they help kids focus on their schooling and futures.  According to one supporter, “As someone who has worked for Oakland public after-school programs, if Measure OO doesn’t pass, we lose most of our funding.  If it passes, we will get 2.5% of the budget – but if it doesn’t pass, we lose even the 1% that we are getting now.”  (lucille.two27)

Vote Against: Opponents appreciate the programs, yet reject the budgeting tactics.  “The City Council already has extended the original funding for an additional 12 years.  Measure OO proposes to increase the funding beyond the current level, and to do so forever.  What other program is getting its budget doubled in this time of big budget cuts?”  (League of Women’s Voters)

From a financial perspective, the measure would require Oakland to allocate $26 million in perpetuity, before any other programs are budgeted.  It actually increases city funding from 2.5% to 5% of the budget.  Meanwhile, our City Council has to make 15% worth of cuts to the overall budget – so this doesn’t add up.

Hobson’s Choices:

There’s no question that other worthwhile social programs, for kids and adults, would get whittled away.  Here are likely candidates, along with their current budgets:  public libraries ($12.3m); parks & recreation programs ($14.7m); human services for families/elderly ($6.75m); and even the Oakland museum ($6.4m).

We have difficult trade-offs to consider here.  Who’s more worthy?  Kids who attend after-school programs versus others who visit local libraries?  I believe libraries provide a terrific oasis as well, including access to the internet, and friendly faces willing to help.  The same might be said for all the park programs, which appeal to kids too.

In more stable economic times, we would all jump at securing funding for community programs.  However it’s more important to maintain some flexibility and ensure the survival of other city resources, too.  This measure takes away our freedom to choose.

More Insights:  Please click on comments, discussing how Kids First programs are funded (!) without passage of Measure OO.

5 thoughts on “Which Community Programs Live?

  1. Those advocating for the passage of Measure OO are lying. If Measure OO fails, the funding for the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth WILL STAY EXACTLY THE SAME as it has always been. If it passes, it will be dramatically increased, jeopardizing vital city services so that we can give more taxpayer money to non-profits.

    It’s very important that people are clear on this – the claim that funding to these programs will be cut if the measure doesn’t pass IS NOT TRUE. There is no truth to it. None. Those advocating for the measure know this perfectly well. This is greed, pure and simple, and deliberate deception of the taxpayers. It’s disgusting.

  2. Admittedly, I have had little exposure to the after school programs but what I have seen is abismaly poor. Children are put into crowded portable classrooms for an hour while “roll call” is slowly and ineffectually taken. They are made to sit quietly with no reading or writing allowed (this after hours in the classroom). There are few physical activities taught or encouraged,,,”no running, you might fall!” I am grateful to be able to provide my granddaughter with an alternative arena after school.

  3. The previous comment is inaccurate. Current funding for youth services through the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth is 14 million. Without Measure OO, OFCY’s budget will be reduced to 10 million dollars – a 25% cut in children services starting next year.

    In addition, Parks and Rec, the libraries, and the Oakland Museum can and do apply for funding from the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth – OFCY funds are available to both public and non-profit entities.

    The advantage of OFCY is that our public and non-profit entities must demonstrate that they are providing quality services to young people. If you have ever visited the Museum of Children’s Art or seen a Destiny Arts show, you will know that non-profits provide some of the most innovative and high quality services to our children. Moreover, the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, by requiring a funding match, brings in millions of additional private dollars into our city. Finally, many of the programs funded by OFCY partner with local schools to provide high quality services during and after-school.

    As a financially struggling mother of a toddler, I definitely appreciate library services. But I so want him to access the quality programs that I’ve seen truly make a difference in the lives of urban youth, especially the many children in Oakland with inadequate family support.

    I believe this investment will actually save the city money because prevention is always cheaper than police and prisons.

  4. Measure K, which the City Council unanimously renewed last Spring, sets aside 2.5% of the City’s unrestricted General Fund revenues for the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth. If Measure OO fails, OFCY will continue to get the exact same 2.5%. Anyone who tells you that failure to pass Measure OO will result in a cut in funding for the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth is LYING. Measure OO would more than double the existing set-aside, for a total of 5% of all General Fund dollars. It would mean that the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth would now have $26 million a year to dole out to non-profits, and that money would come at the expense of the City’s libraries, parks, senior services, and all other programs.

    To put the truly galling level of greed on display here in perspective, the amount of taxpayer money that this would set-aside to be granted to non-profits is GREATER THAN THE ENTIRE BUDGET for Oakland’s entire Library system and GREATER THAN THE ENTIRE BUDGET for Oakland Parks and Rec.

    There’s a reason the Alameda County Democratic Committee, the Central Labor Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the entire Oakland City Council, Mayor Ron Dellums, the MGO Democratic Club, the Oakland Parks Coalition, and the League of Women Voters ALL oppose this measure. It is flat out bad for the city.

  5. As someone who has seen the benifits of both city run programs and non-profit programs, I can honestly say that many non-profit agencies do provide a good service, but for relatively few kids. The Kids First Fund currently serves up to 5000 kids city-wide. Parks and Recreation, Libraries and Health and Human Services provide programs, activities and social support for many, many more children. And the city agencies have been whittled down to the bare bone over the last 15 years, so it’s you can not say that these agencies are wasteful or top-heavy. Quite the opposite. I can tell you from personal experience that these city agencies are run by very experienced professionals who are passionate about providing great services to the public.

    As for the Kids First Fund taking a drop from $14,000,000 to $10,000,000, well that is purely a result of the entire city being in a $64,000,000 budget defiict. The current Kids First Fund is based on 2.5% of un-restricted city budgets. The new Kids First II would be based on 5% of all city budgets including police, fire and other budgets that can not be reduced by law. That leaves the budets of Libraries, Parks and Recreation, Social Services, Public Works, the Museum and a few other departments to cover the higher amount. As for these city departments being able to compete for the money in the Kids First Fund, it does not amount to a whole lot. Yes, Parks and Recreation aplied for funding for 5 different programs last year, but only 3 were granted and at much reduced rate than asked for. This does not even touch on the fact that it seems rediculous for City agencies to have to hire grant writers(try getting funded without) to apply for money (from another City agency) that was originally cut from their budgets 12 years ago. Now these non-provits want to more than double their take from your tax money!

    I have been running programs for pre-schoolers, elementary aged children, adults and seniors with a budget of $30,000 at Montclair Recreastion Center and have done so with-out any help from the Kids First Fund. Many non-profits come to me and ask for free use of the park or building with-out offering anything in return. We serve over 1500 Oakland residents per year at just this one park and Recreation Center. I think that the public is getting one hell of a deal for their tax dollars.

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