The City of Oakland just passed its 2019-2021 Budget late last night at the Oakland City Council. The trouble is City of Oakland Workers aren't liking what they see, and so, storm clouds are forming for what would be the second strike in as many years.
— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) June 25, 2019
Words of discontent are surfacing. The representative of Local 21's response was that the rank-and-file are still processing the new budget, and will keep fighting for the increases they sought. Mean translation: "We're looking at the details, but we're not happy we didn't get the increases we asked for and will do something about it."
What they sought was something close to a five percent wage increase, something that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf asserted was not possible. The Mayor's budget called for, among other things, a freeze on hiring to fill positions in the Parks and Recreation Department as part of an effort to close what Schaaf's staff claims was a $93 million deficit.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf asked for the following, as well:
Councilmember Expenditure Priorities – Allocations in FY 2019-21 Budget
Homelessness – $21.3 million
Affordable Housing – $55.4 million
Investments in Children / OUSD – $74.5 million
Economic and Workforce Development – $2.9 million
What she did not ask for was what City of Oakland Workers wanted: a wage increase. And that, while Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan showed that there's a seven-year-old pattern of under-forcasting revenues, leading one to ask "where did that surplus money go?"
So, while Soda Tax revenues are to be used to help fill positions in the Parks and Recreation Department, the overall rate of work pay will not change.
It must be noted that the use of the Soda Tax revenues in that way did not go unnoticed:
Once again tremendously disappointed in the inequitable decisions #Oakland makes. After working w/community and an advisory board, somehow @LynetteGM makes @OaklandOPR a priority for #sodatax funds. This is NOT what people want. And not what the tax is for. #oakmtg
— Shay (@TewShayy) June 25, 2019
Somewhere in Oakland, former District Four Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, the author of the Soda Tax legislation, is throwing a fit.
The reason is simple: the website introducing the law reads as follows in part
"The Soda Tax Advisory Board will be responsible for (1) making recommendations to the City Council on creating and/or funding programs that prevent or reduce the health consequences of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, and (2) reporting on the implementation of the measure. Oakland City Council, however, has the final say on allocation and implementation of the tax revenue.
It's very clear that the Oakland City Council (minus Annie Campbell Washington) took its option of having "the final say on allocation and implementation of the tax revenue."
— Neil Thapar (@NeilThapar) June 25, 2019
But The City of Oakland Workers Need Financial Help And That's Not In The Budget
"It used to be that the City of Oakland job was true middle class employment, but that's not the case anymore," said one City of Oakland Employee who did not wish to be quoted. All over, there are stories of workers living out of cars, and claims that the City and the Mayor of Oakland don't want them to talk about the problems because it would make them look bad.
"I think Libby is seeking higher office and doesn't want this to get in the way," said the worker. But the bottom line is this: absent the use of tax increment financing, unlike the past, the City of Oakland lacks another giant source of revenue that it can borrow from to help maintain the "middle class" salaries" of decades past.
Today, that inability to borrow from the Oakland Redevelopment Agency has led to a situation where, as the worker said "a person can actually take a step down in title, and make more money." The reason is, there are so many vacant positions because so many people have left the City of Oakland, that the workload is dumped on fewer people.
"You can quit the City of Oakland, take a lower level civil service job in San Francisco, and still make $20,000 more" than in Oakland, said my source. Plus, she forgot to add that you can still live in Oakland, too.