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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Oakland Sets Timetable for Placing Public Safety Parcel Tax on November Ballot

OAKLAND | CITY COUNCIL | If Oaklanders approve a renewal of Measure Y later this year, the parcel tax passed a decade ago to fund public safety, its success will lie in transparency, Councilmember Noel Gallo said Tuesday.

The Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee, chaired by Gallo, approved an ambitious timetable to present the proposed ballot measure beforehand for public vetting before the full council can approve placing it on the November ballot no later than late July.

“Those of us in Oakland, for us doing the asking, need to be respectful and be clear for the process and timeline and have a plan for our neighbors,” said Gallo.

The Public Safety Committee on Tuesday evening recommended a resolution that lays out a plan for up to three public meetings between March and May on the subject of asking voters to potentially fund additional police officers and related public safety programs through their parcel taxes. It also allows tasks the committee with formulating the measure's ballot language, which could be presented as early as June 10—a week after voters participate in the June primary. If approved by the Public Safety Committee, placing the measure on the November ballot could be heard by the full council sometime in July, said Claudia Burgos, Gallo’s chief of staff.

Time, though, will be of the essence. "It's a daring day," City Clerk Latonda Simmons said of the potential rush to prepare the measure. The deadline for placing a ballot measure on the November ballot is Aug. 8, she said, which leaves very little time for her department and the city administrator's office to review the proposed measure. The City Council’s last scheduled meeting before the August recess is July 29. As a last resort, a special meeting could also be called, Simmons added.

The political push for passing a new parcel tax is likely to be great as the city continues to be plagued by a perception of pervasive crime, along with a mayoral race destined to spotlight the issue. “This is the most important local measure on the ballot in November,” said Councilmember Dan Kalb. “We need to get it right.” Kalb says his office will facilitate another public meeting in his district on March 22 at a yet-to-be-determined time and place.

“This measure needs everybody’s support,” said Councilmember Libby Schaaf. She hopes the public will view the committee’s role in drafting the measure as a “conduit” for public input and not as a decision-making body.

Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, also a supporter for renewing the parcel tax, said, while the additional funding will help the city, there is more that needs to be done to make residents feel safer. “We will not police ourselves to a safe city,” she said. “This is not the only answer. It won’t solve everything.”

1 comments :

Just a little perspective: once again the Council waits until a deadline looms to come up with what could be a critical piece of legislation. What has the Council been thinking for the past two years (at least) when the renewal (and hopefully vast improvement) of Measure Y has been at issue?

So we have another essentially last-minute effort which cannot avoid being short-sighted and poorly-conceived. The press of deadlines allows the Council to curtail the kind of deep reflection and creative imagination required for a renewed effort to provide crime-prevention social programs and an adequately-sized police department.

It will be very difficult for Oakland citizens concerned about public safety, community-building and related problems to accept that a last-minute effort can produce an improvement over the miserable Measure Y. Thus the Council, as it does in so many ways, works to guarantee that Oakland won't move foward.

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