The Die Is Cast

Not that the Oakland City Council members are like Julius Caesar, but they declared “the die is cast” and proceeded across their Budget Rubicon last night.

We think they closed the 2009-2010 budget gap.  After some hand-wringing, seven council reps voted and one abstained for a final round of cuts.  [And they agreed to vote on the rest in two weeks.]  There’s plenty of unfinished business, like working with union negotiators, but few options right this minute.

The Council will vote voted to shave 15 percent from elected officials’ budgets, which includes the mayor, attorney, auditor, council reps and their aides.  In addition, the city planners were hit hard.

During this current budget year, there had to be a place to save another $4 million because this gap wasn’t going to magically disappear.  And another $35 million needs to be hunted down during the next fiscal year, so the clock was running out.

After months of delay, Council President Jane Brunner admitted, “we’re all going to suffer together.”  Not pretty but necessary.

Updates:  Please see voting clarifications above, thanks to V Smoothe and Max Allstadt.  (March 3rd Update)  The Council finally voted for the 15 percent cuts from elected officials’ budgets.  (April 1st Update)

Political Preseason For District 4

In Oakland, our City Council seat is now up for grabs.  Since District 4 Rep Jean Quan has announced her bid for the mayor’s spot, everyone’s curious about who might replace her.

Although candidates don’t officially file until summer, there’s preseason buzz about the guard change.  This week, Future Oakland mentioned a full line-up of potential candidates including Jill Broadhurst, Floyd Huen, Scott Jackson, Clinton Killian, Libby Schaaf and Melanie Shelby.  And Zennie62 put his support behind Schaaf.

Simply put, the line-up is very impressive.  There are three lawyers, a doctor, a utility exec/consultant and a private sector marketer here.  Two work for the county, while one toils away for the city.  And everyone has been actively involved in civic activities, trying to improve Oakland’s quality-of-life.

We don’t believe anyone has been elected to city offices before.  In 2004, Melanie Shelby ran for the at-large council seat and was beaten by Henry Chang (now filled by Rebecca Kaplan).  Earlier this year, Clinton Killian and Scott Jackson were rumored candidates for the mayoral race as well.

Since half this line-up has Oakland Hills ties, we wanted to introduce people we’ve met before:

  • Jill BroadhurstA leader on our Montclair Safety & Improvement board, Broadhurst brings her private sector skills to improvements like the Pocket Park.  She’s an activist focused on city parks, libraries and fire safety – and has already declared her council seat run.  (More: Campaign)
  • Floyd HuenA public health medical director, Huen heads various Alameda County services today.  He’s also been a civil rights activist through the years.  We see him at assorted events along with his wife, Jean Quan. (More:  KQED, Alameda Cty)
  • Libby SchaafAn inside reformer and attorney, Schaaf provides legislative and development counsel to the City.  She’s advised Mayor Brown and worked as the Port’s public affairs director.  Schaaf also served on the Lighthouse School and MOCHA (museum) boards. (More:  LinkedIn)

While we haven’t met the other possible candidates, they also have nice backgrounds:

  • Scott Jackson – A deputy district attorney for Alameda County, Jackson’s been involved in various cases that matter to Oaklanders.  His press has ranged from retail robberies to preventing deportation for an refugee.  Outside of work, he coaches kids sports teams.  (More:  Tribune)
  • Clinton KillianA private-practice attorney, Killian’s also established a free legal clinic and worked in small claims court.  He’s served on the Planning Commission and AC Transit board.  Killian also has been involved with the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and Paramount Theater. (More:  Web Site)
  • Melanie ShelbyA PG&E public affairs exec turned supplier diversity consultant, Shelby has served on Oakland Housing Authority, Health & Human Services Commission, and MOCHA (museum) boards.  (More: LinkedIn, Last Campaign)

When it comes to the District 4 seat, we should smile at all these candidate possibilities.  While their backgrounds vary, the six are smart, well-educated and devoted to Oakland – so there’s no need to pick the lesser of evils.

The Council Resolves Schoolyard Dispute

Last Tuesday eve, we switched to the Oakland City Council’s marathon meeting on Channel 10.  When the subject of local park projects came up for review, it felt like we were watching the Council resolve their schoolyard dispute live.

The Council approved resolutions to submit eight park projects for external grants.  Let’s rewind back to the original resolutions, beginning with seven projects nominated by district.  The process leading to approvals showed the balancing act between district and city-wide priorities.

City Council - Nov 3, 2009

Which projects would get funded? Well, no one knows ahead of time.  To keep things equitable, Council reps had decided to recommend one favored project for their respective districts.  Like any major metro, Oakland has a reasonable shot at receiving external funds for some park improvements.

Could another project be added? At the Council meeting, a handful of impassioned residents spoke about the need for a second West Oakland project:  a teen center.  They claimed that kids would stay out of trouble with somewhere to go, and it was hard to argue with the request at face value.

What process should Council follow? The schoolyard confusion began in earnest when Council Rep Nancy Nadel wanted to add this project in her district.  At-large Rep Rebecca Kaplan said that she never recommended a project before, and supported this new teen center.  Larry Reid protested repeatedly because the rules had changed in the game, and he had other projects that mattered too.

When could projects expand? There was some back-and-forth about combining the two West Oakland projects together. Yet that was scratched when a city staffer explained the grant process required projects to be located on contiguous property.

It was getting late.  Council Prez Jane Brunner said “enough” and the resolutions were passed:  five yeas; one nay; one abstention; one absence.  Despite schoolyard jealousy, eight projects made this final list.

Now the real work begins with a bevy of community meetings and project planning preps ahead – all required to improve Oakland’s odds at winning a capital infusion.