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.
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.
This Oakland budget cycle is pretty nasty, and the metaphor that comes to mind is getting blood from a stone. One head shaker for all Oaklanders should be our CORE program, which stands for Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies.
With the first responders getting hit in the Fire Department, it seems even more important to keep our CORE program live. As you likely know, CORE trains citizens to help themselves. Further, we are talking about a rounding error for the City of Oakland.
Who is behind the scenes? The CORE program is essentially run by the Emergency Planning Coordinator, Kaity Booth. Many folks have communicated with Oakland City Council members already, and there are plans afoot to speak up at tonight’s council meeting. Even at this late stage, I think it’s worth sharing how one volunteer feels:
We are now organized, we are now focused and we now have the knowledge and confidence to effectively take care of ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our fellow Oakland citizens WHEN (not if) disaster strikes as first responders.
Oakland has a winning program in CORE and a real jewel in Kaity Booth. As one of the recent graduates of the CORE program, I have seen Kaity in action. She is knowledgeable, organized, supportive of the participants and her colleagues, articulate and 100% responsive. She is the glue that holds all the great pieces of this program together.
I am impressed enough with her leadership and the CORE program that I have already volunteered as a victim and have indicated my interest to lend my training expertise to the program.
It’s a tough time, and every interest group is going to try to “save” their special areas. The CORE program seems like a low-cost insurance policy which supports neighborhoods and blocks – plus contributes to overall civility.
June 5th Update: Kaity Booth and her emergency planning coordinator position will not be cut by the City of Oakland. Also the Fire Department will have some firefighters offering additional training around our city.
Like many other city services, CORE is destined for the chopping block soon.
For first responders, Oakland’s CORE program helps extend their reach when disasters strike. CORE, which stands for Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies, teaches residents how to respond effectively in the first 72 hours…after an earthquake, fire, mudslide or other calamity.
Oakland’s Fire Department started CORE in response to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and ramped up after the 1991 Oakland Hills fires. CORE has developed a full curriculum related to personal safety, home protection and even pet care when the big whatever hits.
Montclair Safety’s Nick Vigilante believes that some CORE needs to survive regardless of budget cuts. At tonight’s Public Safety Council Meeting, down at City Hall, he will propose “that CORE and all its current assets be retained and merged with Neighborhood Watch and the Neighborhood Watch Division. If the City intends to eliminate CORE, this will give them a workable way for keeping CORE in place and going strong.”
Around Montclair, many people have become block captains who have learned some things from CORE – or Montclair MONS – training and practices. How will more advanced knowledge be shared if CORE shuts down? I think this is where volunteerism comes into play, because we know it’s just a matter of time for Mother Earth to deliver her next blow.
Evening Update: Nick Vigilante returned from the Public Safety Council Meeting with good news. “There may be some cuts in the CORE Program and/or the CORE Program may be moved to the Neighborhood Services Division,” explained Vigilante. “However, I do not think it will impact the delivery of CORE Program services. All of this is still to be determined.”