As the City puts together our budget, the resounding message I’ve been hearing from Oakland’s residents is that we love our town. I’m also hearing—and it should come as no surprise—that crime and City finances are the greatest challenges to maintaining the city we love.

Oakland is worth fighting for. But how exactly should we fight for it?

Here are my priorities:

#1 Focus on the immediate reduction of crime.

We must support rebuilding sworn and civilian staffing in Oakland’s police department and support reforms to improve policing, as well as maintain successful prevention and intervention strategies. Also, we know that per-employee benefit costs are rising steeply over the next five years, so even if we can afford increased spending on non-public-safety positions today, it will seriously jeopardize our ability to increase or even maintain public safety funding in the future.

These threats still exist in the proposal from Councilmembers Brooks, Reid, and Gallo, which I oppose. That proposal would create a $9 million deficit, cut ALL new civilian positions proposed for the Oakland Police Department, and end ALL assistance from California Highway Patrol, and it would dramatically increase permanent funding for non-public safety staff. Instead, I support Council President Kernighan’s proposal, which balances our need to increase public safety, stabilize other critical services, and maintain some fiscal discipline. (Full analysis of both proposals here).

#2 Admit we are in a fiscal hole and don’t dig it any deeper.

I would love to give city workers raises – I unequivocally believe they deserve them, particularly our lowest-wage temporary workers. But how can we take on new compensation obligations when we haven’t figured out how to pay for the obligations we already have? Oakland has $1.5 BILLION in unfunded benefit liabilities. The proposals discussed above don’t put a single dollar towards paying this down. Our five-year financial forecast shows that if even if we resume our actuarially required payments for these benefits, along with necessary capital spending in our next budget, Oakland will still be $200 million over-budget in five years. We can’t ignore this threat any longer. Our predecessors did, and look where it’s gotten us.

As with raises, we must also exercise extreme caution in adding new permanent City positions. Oakland is continuing to pay for on-going expenses with one-time revenues. It might look balanced this year, but it’s not sustainable.

Despite our differences, I believe all of Oakland’s officials are in public service with a sincere commitment to doing what’s best for our communities. Please appreciate how hard it is to say “no” when every advocacy group is begging you to say “yes”, and when the needs are very real and pressing. Please urge Oakland’s Council to face-up to Oakland’s fiscal stability right now, or else ALL the services we value could be even further decimated in the future.


Our Oakland is worth fighting for. Arm yourself with information and come fight for your priorities. There’s an excellent comprehensive link to budget materials and press coverage at and great in-depth analysis by Make Oakland Better Now at . You may email all Councilmembers your thoughts at and/or attend the Budget Adoption Meeting Thursday, June 27th at 6:30pm.

Our Oakland is worth fighting for. Thanks for being in the fight with me.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland; we have invited all city council people to post on OL and welcome their contributions, as well as your own.

5 Responses

  1. Alexa


    I think you should shout out Open Budget Oakland (OBO) and Open Oakland, who won a hackathon to create that marvelous app to increase transparency. I’m working with Shawn, one of the founders of OBO, in the Community Democracy Project.

    “Come check out Community Democracy Project!

    The Community Democracy Project promotes active citizenship, community learning, and direct democracy by putting the people in charge of the budget. Our voter initiative will change the Oakland City Charter so that we the people decide how our tax money is spent. There will be empowered neighborhood assemblies throughout the city where people can come together to discuss community issues and determine public priorities by directly voting on the city budget. The time has come for public decision-making to include the voices of all.”

  2. KL

    I would like to see more money invested on science education for African American students.

  3. Not one classification

    I’d like to see more money invested on science education for ALL students in Oakland- not just a subset in the community. All students deserve the opportunity to be inspired.

  4. KL

    Too often when we say “ALL,” African American students fall through the cracks. I would like to make sure the differences are acknowledged and addressed.


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