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

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