Oakland- Community and labor groups today accused the City Administrator of majorly overstepping his executive powers by making budgetary decisions without the input of the City Council or the public. At the January 25th Finance Committee meeting, City Administrator Ed Reiskin stated he has the authority to “control and administer the financial affairs of the City” implying that he would be the one to take immediate measures and make cuts to balance the budget.
The Mayoral Administration’s unnecessary and illegal power grab completely ignores recovery for Black, Latinx, and working-class Oaklanders. The City of Oakland recently elected one of its most diverse and progressive Councils in order to equitably take on the challenges of the pandemic. According to Oakland’s City Charter, major budget decisions are not to be solely in the hands of the Mayor.
Budgeting powers fall to the City Council, the legislative branch of government, while the City Administration, the executive branch, is to carry out these decisions. Article VII of the Charter of the City of Oakland clearly states that “No expenditure of City funds shall be made except for the purposes and in the manner specified by an appropriation of the Council …” While clean-up within a fund is allowed to balance the budget, “the City Administrator must obtain approval from the City Council” when “substantially or materially altering the adopted budget,” as indicated in the Fiscal Year 2019-2021 biennial budget Resolution.
“The administration seems to be approaching the budget process by picking and choosing what they want to cut, without input from Council or community, while simultaneously showing little progress towards already proposed council directives that would close any budget gap such as curbing police overspending, which created a $32 million dollar deficit in the first place,” said Liz Suk, Interim Executive Director of Oakland Rising.
“The Mayor has already rushed into cutting fire stations, then immediately reversed her position once the City Council found funding to keep them open. We cannot afford more of these dangerous mistakes. I hope that the City Administration and the Mayor rethink their approach to this Budget and see labor and community as partners to address any shortfall. It was a City Council member who suggested using the $10 million reserve fund set up by the Coliseum Authority to offset proposed fire cuts,” said Liz Ortega, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council.
“We will continue to be a check on the Mayor’s authority. The people of Oakland want a democratic and transparent government to ensure our tax dollars are spent protecting residents and front line workers, not corporate bottom lines.”Today at 1:30pm, the Oakland City Council is set to meet and discuss the appropriation of $10 Million from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority and community and labor leaders will be in attendance to support.