by liz suk
Last Thursday in a landslide win, City Council voted 6 – 2 to approve City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas’ proposed budget amendments which include reallocating $18M to fund violence prevention rather than the mayor’s proposed two additional police academies. Other major shifts include prioritizing funding for jobs, housing, community services, and arts & culture. Importantly, this budget includes an audit of the police department (listen to my interview on KPFA).
This budget victory was built by creativity and love from community members, organizations and unions who worked collectively to fight for a budget that serves our communities and ensures we will thrive post-pandemic. A huge thanks to:
– each of YOU who called/emailed your councilmember, showed up at city council meetings and shared public comment, came out to our actions;
– our 8 voter outreach team members who reached out to 30,000 voters via phone and text banks, holding conversations with ~1300 voters; and
– all of the organizers and cultural workers who spent endless hours fighting for a budget that truly reflects us all.
Special thanks to our wonderful coalition partners at Defund the Police, Refund Oakland, and the Oakland Progressive Alliance for helping us reimagine Oakland. This victory is a direct result of long-term power building. The years of endless organizing and coalition building converged with co-governance with progressive elected officials who championed for us and alongside us; this is a true shift and transformation in our cogoverning power with elected officials. Thank you City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Councilmember Carroll Fife for truly standing with your people and rejecting neo-liberal governance. Oakland celebrates this win.
- Triples our Department of Violence Prevention’s budget with $17.4 million more to stop violence from happening in the first place with violence interrupters, life coaches and community ambassadors, and targeted investments in our youth in the most impacted neighborhoods.
- Invests $6.5 million total in MACRO, a new mobile crisis response system through our Fire Department so that trained, civilian crisis responders with medical and behavioral health expertise — rather than an armed law enforcement officer — respond to mental health 911 emergencies. Additionally, the State of California just published a revised budget that includes $10 million to fund our MACRO program.
- Transfers low-level vehicle-related 911 calls — which make up thousands of calls for service every year — to our Department of Transportation over the next year. Our police officers can focus on violent and serious crime, no longer tasked with responding to issues like blocked driveways, auto tows, improper parking, and abandoned autos.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness:
- Provides sanitation to over 100 encampments while expediting affordable housing solutions for the unhoused;
- Adds staffing to the city’s Homelessness Division to improve interdepartmental coordination of encampment management and case management for unhoused Oaklanders.
Good Jobs & A Vibrant Economy:
- Provides $300K to small and disadvantaged businesses for facade improvements, repairs, flex street supports, and parklets;
- Provides $1.5 million in cultural affairs programming and staffing to support artists and festivals, particularly in a post-COVID recovery environment; and
- Provides $1.5 million in workforce development, training and placement targeted to serve flatland neighborhoods, youth, unhoused, and formerly incarcerated individuals.
- Increased capacity to support workers’ rights through 4 new staff in the Department of Workplace & Employment Standards to outreach to low wage workers and enforce Oakland’s laws like minimum wage, paid sick leave, etc.
Clean, Healthy & Sustainable Neighborhoods:
- Restores the Mayor’s elimination of 13.5 FTE crossing guards at Oakland schools to ensure student and family safety;
- Restores the Mayor’s cuts of 4 environmental enforcement officers who address illegal dumping;
- Pilots a 25-member Parks Ambassadors program to serve parks citywide;
- Invests $500K through Measure HH in community food cards at corner stores in the flatlands to support families in accessing nutritious food.
Our fight is long from over. This is our time to come together and invite every City Councilmember to join our fight for an equitable implementation of the budget. We can work hand in hand to build policy and budgets that reflect a united front rather than a divided vision. Today, we can begin building across the city instead of falling into the Mayor’s neo-liberal trap of division. Although this vote was an important win in the right direction to reallocate money from policing to refund our communities, we will continue to fight to defund OPD and continue to reinvest in the People and restoration of our town.
My children and I joined last week’s vigil event organized by City Council President Bas and CM Fife to commemorate the life lost at Lake Merritt at the Juneteenth celebrations. We send our love and strength to the family of Dashwan Rhoades. Misinformation in the media about Dashawn feeds into the racialized stereotyping of young Black men that fuels the narrative for a need for more policing (read Cat Brooks’ op-ed). As we continue to learn the details of that day and the lives who now are forever impacted by the violence inflicted, what is clear is that investment in violence prevention is critical. The uplifting vigil showed how community can come together in moments of tragedy and find strength and compassion.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By tackling the true economic inequities that create violence in our communities – employment, housing and food insecurity – and investing in our children and people first, we can prevent other fatalities like what happened at the Juneteenth celebration. Check out the recording of Tuesday’s vigil.