Thursday, October 18, 2012

The high price of Oakland Policing

We need to face the fact that the Oakland Police Department is a failure. 
We fail to stop crime. We fail to prevent crime. We fail to get our youth away from crime. 
And we fail to have the respect, trust and support of enough of the people. 
We also fail to deal with normal pubic events, such as Occupy and Raider’s games.  

Our police department has successfully resisted efforts to reform it, to hold it accountable and they have successfully resisted implementing public policy in community policing and restorative justice.  

Take a look at this 1974 video of our Oakland Police “reforming” themselves with the help of an early computer, a training program and an early congressman Ron Dellums and ask yourself if that reform effort reflects the Oakland Police that we know now a generation later.
Before spending another dime on more police, let’s look at all the costs and do some housekeeping.

Top of the list is some kind of civilian oversight of the police with the power to terminate the employment of police officers who have abused members of the public. The idea that we do not have this should have us all upset, but we get used to a lot of disappointments in Oakland government and accept bad situations when we should not.  

Quickly following this, and totally related, we need to stop the millions in lawsuit payouts for police misconduct.  We seem to be paying out more than San Jose and San Francisco.  

The biggest lawsuit, the Riders Case, needs to be resolved.  We cannot put any resources towards our police only have them in danger of being controlled by a federal judge.  

My suggestion for these accountability problems is a Police Commission. 
Other cities have them and we should too. 

Not to have police accountability costs us in the most expensive way possible because we have lost community trust and support.  

There are also dollar costs that need to be brought down ASAP because a million dollars a year is too much to pay for 4-5 police officers.  

The cost of overtime needs to be stopped.  A freeze on overtime except for those who actually patrol and are at the bottom of the pay scale would be a good place to start.  High salary office staff should not be on overtime.  That is the most expensive overtime possible.  And that kind of overtime distorts the calculation of pension costs later.  

The costs of having 90 officers (out of 630?) out on workers comp needs to be dealt with.  Do we have a plague?  How do we cut that number down or get people who are not coming back to work on the roles? 

The cost of having an armed, badge wearing officer do paper work, take finger prints, visit the families of truant students is ridiculously high and their effectiveness is radically low.  The civilian side of the police department is too small and not allowed to do enough.  

The cost of the pension program needs to be brought into something manageable.  It is not now.  We are building up a bill for pensions and retiree health care that could bankrupt the city.  

The cost of having officers ramp up their last years on the job so that they can collect the highest pension possible is a big part of why pension costs are so unmanageable.  

The cost of the top paid officers needs to be capped.  The whole wage scale needs to be reviewed.  

The cost of the “academy’ system to train new officers needs an audit.  3 million to train 40 cops? 

Today I read that they want to outsource police services and rent police from other areas? 
What will that cost? 

And the cost of employing people who will not live in our city should be brought into account. That costs us in trust, in support and in flat dollars.  Why are we hiring people who do not want to live here?  

Do some of this housekeeping and then the cost of hiring more officers would not be the multimillion dollar hamster wheel that it is now and we could expand staff with the support of the public and enough funds to hire them.  

But first, the public needs to feel that our police are held up to a high ethical standard and that they work for us and not the other way around.  If we do not feel that the police serve us, why pay the cost?

Friday, September 28, 2012

A simple commitment to respect the will of the people.

Jim Dexter asked me to make clear that I support the voter's intent when passing the various measures such as Q and Y in my drive for budget reform.

I told him that he was just asking me to put myself on record for something he knew full well I considered an ethical value.  For me this basic respect for the public's will went without saying, but I had made the political mistake of not having said it.  

He also told me that he would support me if I would make this public statement.  I think he already does.  Truth be told, we are of like mind on quite a number of things.  

When the public has made a choice as clear and legally clean as Measure Q to support our libraries (for example) it has become the marching orders of every public servant, elected or otherwise. To not follow those marching orders is a breach of public trust.

So what is the problem? 
The measures were voted on, they are law, and the provisions in those measures are guiding how those funds are being spent. Right?

There are many aspects of Measure Y and Measure Q that are not being followed.
In all the time I have been working on community policing, I have never heard of the required number of Problem Solving Officers that Measure Y requires being assigned.  Maybe I missed something.  Are all those fire stations open? Guess I messed a lot. 

And are our libraries open 6 days a week as per Measure Q?  Not the one in my area and not the one where my girlfriend works.  What others are open 6 days other than the main branch?  Who said that not fulfilling that 6 day requirement is OK?  Our City Attorney?

Part of the reason we need to go through this convoluted measure process is because the voters do not trust the politicians to really spend the funds as they promised.  It looks to me like we cannot trust city spending to be in line with the clear legal language of ballot measures either. Talk about a vicious circle of distrust! 

When residents tell me that they would gladly spend more in taxes if they felt it would really go to what was intended, this is what they mean by it not happening.

One could move on to other measures and one could go on and on about this.

If elected to council, I will consider going on and on about ballot measure compliance part of my job.

I will need the public’s help to keep an eye on it all.   
And thank you Jim for reminding me to point out the obvious. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

What would a better budget look like?

What would a better budget look like?
In truth, I do not know because a better budget will be the result of political compromise. 
The first thing we need for a better budget in Oakland is some chance of stability. 
To get that stability, we need serious, stable public support.
We need more than a squeak-by majority behind it. 
·         4 unpopular members of council and a deal with the mayor is not public support for a budget. 
·         A budget report that does not show the full amount of all the public debts and pension obligations, does not develop public trust.  
·         Manipulating the public and threatening to close 14 of 18 libraries and having our council meet in two closed door groups of four is not a budget process that we should be proud of. 
·         Dropping 80 police officers to get a compromise on pensions is not good relations with our public employees.  
This list could go on and on citing examples from almost all of the public departments and all kinds of disappointment with our elected official.  I’ll stop here with a question:  Do you think the public at large trusts the way our public officials are managing our public finances?  
All of these events are very hard on our public employees, many of whom have their jobs threatened every two years or less and word day to day in an atmosphere of hand to mouth, crisis to crisis thinking on the part of a management who gets little more than two years of planning offered to them.   
Jane Brunner, who is leaving the job that I want, (Council Member District 1) told the Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League that this last budget was really a great step forward.  She felt that for the first time they were getting some kind of real information and numbers from city staff.  Jane has held this seat for 16 years or something like that.  I feel that if she feels that we have had too little information for the past fourteen years on our budget, then the budget process is more flawed than it looks and it looks bad.
What I see as a process leading to a better budget would be public approval, by a wide majority, of that new budget process in a referendum.  I would submit any reformed budget to the people for a vote.  Maybe what we need is some kind of budget convention, sort of like a charter convention or constitutional convention and then require that it pass with the same majority needed to authorize taxes.  If we are going to transform prior tax measures, we will need that majority to be legal.  
So given that, here are some ideas I would like to see discussed and addressed in a total budget review.
To start with, we need to raise taxes in a fairer and more predictable way.  I do not like the endless fees and the over complicated measures authorizing parcel taxes.  We could drop the parcel taxes and reform our business taxes, sales taxes and service fees in a way that cover’s our real costs.  I am open to all of it as long as it is fair, keeps residents in their homes and lets local business, especially small business, survive securely.  In a separate posting, I will stick my neck out and propose a different business tax.  My basic principal is that people making money should pay taxes accordingly and people who are not making money here should have some kind of security.  
Measures Y, Q and others like them need to be brought back into the fold as part of basic way we do business.  I believe in the dedicated funding commitments to community policing and our libraries, but not by this process.  A guaranteed percentage of general fund spending would probably be better.  A non-rider rule would also help so that such things as community policing would not be stuck paying 4 million dollars to the fire department (this is the current Measure Y).  
I have no idea why we do not spend our money AFTER we raise it.  What if we spent in 2012 based on what we took in during 2011 instead of what we hope to take in during 2013?  Somehow I fear that I am in danger of being taken to the border and expelled from the United States for saying such a thing, but it would make planning a “hecka” easier.  
And how about the business cycle?  It happens.  Capitalism is the system we live under in this country.  We have been having big downturns on a regular basis since well before the panic of 1893 and they should not be a cause for us to be unprepared or panic in 2012.  I make some jokes during forums that it is sad that the Green Party, the one party that puts people before profit, is the one brining up this very basic fact about our economy.  It is sad and a bit odd.  The “rainy day fund” that some discuss and a few have implemented can be the way we do this.   The definition of the growth/recession can be fixed to performance markers and the transition from good times to bad times, and the release of “rainy day” funds can be set by a pre determined formula at the beginning of each spending year.  
 During periods of high growth and heavier investment and more real-estate transactions is when we should NOT spend on upgrading our buildings, purchasing new resources, special public works or big projects.  During those times we should restrict government to basic services.  We can learn from recent history and never ever allow any of the real-estate transfer taxes to anything but the rainy day fund.  In good times, we should keep our libraries, parks, civic centers, programs running, pay our debts, and put sidewalk expansion, paving roads, development projects and such on hold.   
And we should spend when times are bad.  That is when those public projects will cost the least to do and when an injection of shorter term public jobs would do the most good.  It is also when it is least expensive to borrow money.  
I see it as an economic shock absorber.  Sort of a rainy day fund with a works project administration ready to start up on those rainy days.  
Now we can, and I will, work on these points one by one and see what kind of improvements we can get piece by piece.  That is the way we work on such issues now and the result is usually incomplete reforms that do not accomplish much but make day to day government even more complicated and paralyzed.
So I will also advocate that Budget Convention to give us a chance to work on a new budget and new budget process taking the big picture into account.
The alternative is to continue the current budget and budget process with our next budget crisis on schedule for 2013.  
Or?  Are there some other proposals?  

Friday, August 10, 2012

campaign statement for the voter pamphlet

Don Macleay, Candidate for Oakland City Council, District 1,
 campaign statement for the voter pamphlet

On Council, I will address the crisis affecting Oakland youth in Education, Crime, Employment and Housing.  To reduce crime in Oakland, we need to exit the revolving door prison system, work on root causes, and make a place for ex-offenders in our community.  To build a city government that better serves us, we need stable money in our budget, and we must remove money and gerrymandering from our local elections with a budget and charter reform convention.  I offer the skills of an educated environmentalist, an industrial worker, and a business manager.  Over the 23 years that I have lived here raising my two sons, I have found that my mix of white and blue collar background connects me with many residents as does my life as a world citizen living abroad 15 years where I learned to speak French, Spanish, Italian, German and Mandarin.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Open letter to District One for a grass roots council election


I have been talking with people in the community and have spoken with most of my fellow candidates for Oakland City Council District One and have found broad support for a grass roots campaign close to the people.  So I am writing this letter with three sets of suggestions on how to make that happen.

First the community needs to step forward and take the lead.  All of the grass roots groups can invite candidates to their regular meetings, hold mixers and/or forums, interview candidates etc.  By grass roots groups I mean everyone from the Friends of the Tool Library to Business Improvement Districts including the NCPC’s, PANIL, STAND, OCO and all the other friends of other libraries, and local groups.  This would be a good time for a local union or chamber of commerce to host an event and get their questions asked to the candidates too. 

Second, we need to make it easy and inexpensive to do.  Here are some things I saw two years ago that I think could help:
·         Just hold a mixer, pot luck food, minimal time for the candidates to introduce themselves and maximum time to meet and talk one on one. 
·         Only meet with a couple candidates at a time, easier to schedule, less of a production.
·         Hold a couple of small panels on the themes of interest to your group members instead of one big panel that crams too much in. 
Record your meetings with candidates and post them to Ustream for your members who could not make the meeting. 
·         Let the candidates speak.  Answering questions is fine, but at some point letting the candidates define what they (we) think is important. 
·         Invite a candidate or two to your regular meetings to be part of the agenda but only part of the agenda.  The candidates should commit to being there for your whole meeting and seeing what your groups regular business is.  Between now and November there is time to get to all of the candidates running to at least one meeting with some calm.
·         INVITE PRESS THAT MIGHT REALLY COME AND REPORT, that means people like and and our local neighborhood print. 

Third, all of us candidates need to make ourselves available.  Speaking with those fellow candidates I found at the Oakland Builders Alliance, I felt that all the candidates would like to have these close, grass roots meetings.  It is obvious that the grass roots groups will need to do the organizing and inviting.  The candidates need to make it clear when they will be available.  (for myself, see below)  I have copied all of them on this open letter.  

Available for public events starting July 13th
all Wednesdays and Thursdays afternoon or evenings.
Friday-Saturday-Sunday by Fridays 7/13, 7/27, 8/10, 8/24, 9/7, 9/21, 10/5, 10/19 and 11/2.

Friday, June 22, 2012

5 quick questions about the Oakland Army Base project

Question one: if we do not have funds for pensions, police, libraries, parks and adult education, how is it we have a billion dollars for speculative real estate?

Question two: if this is such a good deal, then why does the private sector not provide the investment loans?

Question three: who will the clients for these warehouse center services be? Do we have any contracts lined up in any way?

Question four: is all the money at risk public funds? Has any private company invested in this schema?

Question five: given the city's exposure, why has it.been so hard to monopolize hiring?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oakland businesses need a strong and stable city government.

Oakland businesses need a strong and stable city government.
The dialog between city government and the business community should lead to longer term planning.  The overall general framework of ordnances that define the local business environment needs to be workable and not change much or often.  Renters and home owners, investors, business operators, and city administrators need a predictable environment to make their own plans and thrive. The City Council members who will be good partners for the business community will drive a hard bargain, look at the general picture, practice active oversight and be the trusted representatives of the community. 
The instability must stop. We need to get our city budget out of the current hand-to-mouth, crisis-to-crisis mode.  We cannot be starting programs or hiring police, to stop them when balancing the budget and start them again after passing a ballot measure.  This instability hurts everyone.  
Our budget should take the business cycle into account. 
We need to tax when the economy is high and spend when it is low and have a plan for both. 
We need to tax fairly and more.  The Port of Oakland should contribute more to the operations of its local government.  Some others have also been over-favored by the tax structure while some have been hurt.  New building owners are burdened with the way property taxes punish the most recent investments (Prop. 13).  The city can restructure the way it raises business, property, sales and parcel taxes to compensate.  We need more revenue, but we need to collect it in a way that keeps local employment viable, helping people buy, rent (or rent out) real estate and invest in local business. 
We need clear zoning and permitting rules.  If an activity is allowed by the zoning of a building, then the permit should be simple.  We should also put a stop to constant zoning changes and the, current micro-detailed planning and zoning maps. The current process is unpredictable and expensive.   
The system has to become navigable.  We need to turn the city permitting process around so that the applicant has a case manager.  The case manager would navigate the system, know the full process and have the authority of a manger when they do it. 
We need to take care of what is working. We should reject all planning and projects that damage current employment in favor of development projects without contracted clients. We should never tear down one business in hopes of another.  We have a high vacancy rate and the city should be working hard to see those buildings go back into use.  Our planning should always support our significant service, non-profit and government sector.  All the jobs we have should be supported, valued and retained. 
The best thing that the City of Oakland can do for its business community is to improve the quality of our schools and reduce our chronic crime rate.  The current situation lowers our quality of life and takes down real estate values with it.  The city government needs to make the problems of crime, parolee recidivism, high school truancy, homelessness, substance abuse, unemployment, housing, urban pollution and asthma our top priorities.  These problems are deep rooted and common to urban centers across our country. Turning our crime and school problems around requires the full support of every aspect of all forms of local government.  Development projects, no matter how interesting, have to take a back seat if they are not helping the city deal with at least one of these issues in a significant way. 
Don Macleay,
Candidate for Oakland City Council, District One, November 2012