They Insisted Measure Y Gives Us 802 Police!
As the Nov. 2, 2004 vote approached, the major controversy in the campaigns for and against Measure Y became the opposition's charge that the officials supporting Measure Y were offering a bait-and-switch: they were telling us we would get 802 police, but after it passed, they would ignore the obligation.
The dispute was no surprise. Measure Y was a revision of Measure R after its defeat in the March 2004 vote. Measure R contained no numbers of police officers to be added for the special tax. The city council put numbers in Measure Y, but the wording did not satisfy the opposition.
With ever more insistence and ever harsher language about the opposition, the officials supporting Measure Y stated flatly that we would get 802 officers: 739 from non-Y money, mostly the general fund, plus 63 additional officers with Measure Y tax receipts. Here's what they said:
In a chart comparing Measure Y with Measure R, councilmember Jean Quan said of the former that it "Guarantees 63 additional officers above current budget for 739." (Email newsletter #85, July 23, 2004)
In a public letter on Measure Y, Quan wrote, "This Measure guarantees that the current budgeted number of police 739 must be funded before Measure Y is enacted. In short this brings the total number of police to 802." (www.jeanquan.org/Files/YLetter.htm)
The Oakland Tribune reported, "Despite the concerns, the money raised by Measure Y will be used to expand the department to 802 officers, Quan said. 'All of us have to run for re-election – none of us would break such an obvious promise,' Quan said." (October 10, 2004)
Writing an opinion piece in The Montclarion newspaper, Quan stated, "Measure Y adds 63 police officers above the 739 now budgeted and mandates assignment to community policing and violence-prevention duties:..." (Oct. 29, 2004)
The same day, Quan sent a broadcast email:
"These are the most common questions I have received:
"Will Measure Y really guarantee 63 more officers?
"Yes. The mailer financed by contributions from large apartment owners, whose addresses in the public records are primarily from outside of Oakland, claims that no additional officers will be added. ... As the maker of the resolution introducing Y, I can tell you that I worked with the Community Policing Advisory Board to shape language that would set the current staffing as the floor in the general fund budget, a 'prerequisite', before the '63' additional officers and other Measure Y programs could be funded."
Councilmember Danny Wan issued a public statement that said,
"Allow me to outline what Measure Y proposes to do. Below each component of the measure, I describe the research and community need that support each part of MEASURE Y.
1. MANDATES THAT EACH AND EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD OF OAKLAND WILL BE ASSIGNED A POLICE OFFICER SPECIFICALLY ASSIGNED TO WORK WITH RESIDENTS OF THE SPECIFIC NEIGHORHOOD. GUARANTEES A MINIMUM OF 802 OFFICERS CITYWIDE EACH YEAR (currently, Oakland has 729 officers)." (Message 1836 posted on City-managed Internet group PSA4 on Oct. 20, 2004)
Don Link, chairman of the City's Community Policing Advisory Board wrote,
"The ordinance and Measure Y clearly state that it is 739 plus 63, and the City Attorney concurs in the non-partisan ballot summary. [Charles] Pine and crew have backed down on that point since. The language is there, the safeguards and circuit-breakers, which cut off funding if the Measure's stated requirements are not met, as well."(Message on City-managed Internet group PSA4, Sept. 11, 2004).
(Incidentally, Mr. Link is given to smears. Nine days later, he compared opponents of Measure Y to operatives of the Bush campaign. Read it here.)
In a "summary and analysis" that Mr. Link prepared and distributed at neighborhood meetings, he wrote that Measure Y incorporates
"a stipulation that Oakland continue to fund OPD at a level sufficient to maintain the 739 authorized sworn force during baseline year 2003-04 in order to be able to collect the new taxes. Put another way, if the number of sworn positions in OPD falls below 739 during the 10 year term of the measure, the new taxes become un-collectable and Measure Y activities cease unless another means is found to fund them independent of the parcel and parking taxes created by Measure Y."
Carlos Plazola, then an aide to council president De La Fuente and now a lobbyist for developers, issued a flyer shouting in huge type, "If Measure Y passes, Oakland WILL hire 63 more police officers for a total of 802. Do the math." (See it here.)
Adding its official voice, the City of Oakland published a fact sheet that prominently summarized, "Additional Programs and Services. 63 sworn police officers, bringing total sworn strength to 802."
Now these same people expect taxpayers to pay the full Measure Y taxes, while the projected staffing by the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year (June 30, 2006) will be no more than 728 by the City's own admission. Councilmember Quan, advisory board chair Link, and the rest of them, please tell us: were councilmembers lying about 802 police then, are they breaking the law requiring 802 police now – or both?
Now They Tell Us to Wait
By July 6, 2006, councilmembers were pretty much admitting that their campaign commitments are worthless. At a hearing sponsored by the Community Policing Advisory Board, council president Ignacio De La Fuente said, "The citizens did not expect 802 the next day." With this straw man manipulation of the calendar, he conceded that the City will not have 802 officers in 2005-06, even though the council is collecting the Measure Y taxes.
Council member Quan's flip-flop is especially blatant. She said, "We can't manufacture officers overnight." (Montclarion, July 08, 2005) This remark parallels De La Fuente's words, the only difference being that Quan is more arrogant about the betrayal.
In her email newsletter of July 22, 2005, Quan writes, "Because of injuries, court appearances, the War in Iraq, etc. we do not always have enough officers to fill these beats on all three shifts and overtime is required." It's anything and everything – except the city council's dereliction. Quan does not recall for readers that the council froze police department hiring early in 2002 for nearly three years.
Quan continues, "Over the next two years, the new Measure Y money which the city will receive in January 2006 will allow the chief to hire and train 63 new officers." Suddenly, the 802 officers (739 + 63) promised at the 2004 election are not to arrive until 2008! Measure Y requires an integrated package of benefits, including the requirement to hire and maintain at least 63 genuinely additional officers. Somehow Ms. Quan thinks it is acceptable to shovel grants out the door right now for so-called violence prevention programs, while the City lets years go by without meeting the police requirement of Measure Y.
Quan's newsletter contains yet another deception. She tells readers that Measure Y funds "start next year" in January 2006 as quoted above. In truth, the City began collecting the Measure Y parking tax on Jan. 1, 2005, not 2006 (illegally). As for the parcel tax money, the City budgets all its parcel taxes on a fiscal year basis that begins every July 1. The City has money management mechanisms to make short-term adjustments between year-round spending and the bunched arrival of property taxes, Measure Y taxes, Measure Q taxes, LLAD taxes, and all the special charges that Oakland homeowners find on their property tax bill. Councilmember Quan knows this, because every year she casts a routine vote authorizing the City to borrow money using Revenue Anticipation Notes.
Even the most ardent supporter of these councilmembers must admit that the tenor and thrust of their remarks today are a complete turnaround from their insistent statements during the campaign. Recall, too, the councilmembers' vitriolic attacks on opponents of Measure Y, whose warnings of a bait-and-switch have been sadly confirmed.
The City cannot meet the contractual obligation that comes with collecting the special taxes in Measure Y. That is a consequence of the council's long-standing low priority for public safety. The council has a bad habit of treating special taxes as though they were general funds that come without any obligation. That habit must be broken.