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.