Councilwoman Jane Brunner held an “emergency public meeting” Tuesday night at the North Oakland Senior Citizens Center. The event was standing room only as Scott Johnson, Brunner and Mayor Jean Quan explained the “necessary” budget cuts due to elimination of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency.

Brunner started out with the “good news” saying that libraries, senior citizens centers, human services, police and fire services would all avoid budget cuts. In fact she explained that most of the cuts would only affect city staff in an attempt to avoid cutting the aforementioned public services. However, annual subsidies for the Oakland Zoo, Children’s Fairyland and Hacienda Peralta would all be cut by 40 percent, according to Brunner. And of course, she said, “All redevelopment projects that were not yet under contract would not be funded.”

However, at one point Quan jumped in saying that she had a potential plan to make up for some of the lost redevelopment funds.

“I am hoping that we can acquire funds through Chinese visas” to make up for some of the shortfall, she said. Quan went on to explain that tens of millions of A V5 visa funding helped build the Yankees stadium in New York and she is considering the same for Oakland. She explained that wealthy Chinese people pay for two visas at half a million dollars per visa and that those funds are then allocated to low-income communities to pay for much needed services.

Annalee Allen, founder of the cherished Oakland Walking Tours asked, with noted emotion, whether future tours would be eliminated and Brunner conceded that in fact the tours would be cut. An indignant resident stood up soon after to ask the mayor how she justified spending $50,000 for riot police to “stand around downtown on Saturday nights” to keep watch on a handful of protesters when so many other valuable projects were being eliminated for lack of funds. The mayor responded by saying that she was tired of having the Saturday night anti-police protesters breaking windows on a weekly basis and ruining the image of downtown. She stated that order had to be restored and she planned to make it happen with support of police.

The event ended with a volley of questions from constituents as they wrestled with the enormity of the redevelopment cuts in Oakland. And as one resident aptly asked, “Won’t eliminating the Oakland Redevelopment Agency and creating four agencies in their place become more expensive in the end?”

About The Author