Quan Says That $18 Million Is Ours

Today we visited the Save Your City site where anyone can upload videos that communicate their budget views to Sacramento and the Governator.  When I searched for Oakland, there was Jean Quan saying leave us alone – that $18 million the State wants to grab from property and gas taxes is ours.

Save Your City - Rep Quan

As the City Council’s finance committee chair, Quan forcefully makes her case along these lines:

The State of California has lived on credit cards and hit their limits.  They have already made enough funding cuts, directly impacting Oakland which has a higher percentage of seniors and poor residents.

The State wants to take eight percent of our property taxes, which is $11 million.  More recently, they want to take most of our gas taxes, which is around $6 million.  (This adds up to $17 million but later the $18 million is cited.)

Oakland is looking at an $80 million tax cut because our sales, property, real estate taxes are down.  This affects our quality of life – we need our libraries, police officers and streets maintained, etc.

Oakland has plenty of company, as there are 200 California cities declaring severe fiscal hardship.  When you search around other cities and their reps, you hear the same push-back on the property taxes grab and the same “leave us alone” echoes.

Save Your City is a grass-roots initiative organized by the League of California Cities.  They are encouraging folks to join the coalition or upload videos, and help deliver a thumbs-down message to elected officials in Sacramento.

My take?  As a citizen of Montclair Village, Oakland, Alameda County and California during the great recession of 2009, this feels like an internecine budget battle – but I’m siding with Oakland because this one’s patently unfair.

Update: Our State Assembly finalized and delivered a statewide budget on July 23rd.  The bad news is that Oakland must lend nearly $12 million in property taxes to Sacramento, and be repaid in three years.  Yet there’s some good news because Oakland gets to keep $6 million in gas taxes, along with 30 city workers who maintain streets and sidewalks.

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Some Civic Things Are Budgeted

Right now, the City of Oakland is making all kinds of news with our budget shortfalls.  Like every major metro area, we are dealing with huge gaps and have to get to some final and solvent budget.

Mayor Ron Dellums’ first shot has been poured over and worked through by the City Council.  Beyond the big nut with police funding, four Council representatives have recommended many, many changes – including some civic-minded things that are now budgeted.

Oakland City Officials

We’re betting that you didn’t look at what our council rep, Jean Quan, and her colleagues adjusted in their budget.  It seems like Montclarions are so fed up that even paying attention to the shortfalls and responses can be headache-inducing, but some of our hot-button issues have been addressed:

  • Branch libraries stay open five days a week – While we won’t have six days a week, these hours are certainly better than two or three days which had been proposed by the mayor.  (It will be nice for Montclair to re-open on July 5th, finally.)
  • Two park ranger positions stay in place – There’s been lots of noise from Montclarions, and rightfully so.   This current staffing isn’t ideal, but we will take something rather than nothing!  We hope the rangers will attend to Joaquin Miller, Shepherd, Dimond and other key spots over the summer.
  • Twelve public workers keep their jobs – As Mother Nature takes its toll, it’s good to see four workers handling trees.  Of course, visitors also take their toll on our city parks and eight maintenance workers will be saved too.  This isn’t full-force, so volunteers are still needed to keep parks clean.
  • The CORE program will live on – Some sanity prevails, and the safety coordinator will still be training citizens in handling all the typical Oakland disasters.  We’re overdue for both fires and earthquakes, so it’s important that neighbors know what to do.  Apparently, the fire department agrees now.

What’s next?  The “first reading of the ordinances” takes place this Tuesday, June 16th at 6pm, in the City Council chambers.  This means the Council’s budget motion is reviewed at that session.  There’s a second reading scheduled for June 30th, which would include revisions and changes.

Meanwhile, the wheels spin slowly but sometime the budget does have to get done – even without clear understanding of the impacts from federal, state and county levels.