Broad “People’s Budget” coalition demands investment in housing, arts, jobs, youth programs, and violence prevention instead of proposed increase in police spending.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lance Wilson, (341) 203-0888, [email protected]
OAKLAND, CA — On Wednesday, May 24 at 11 AM, a broad coalition of flatland residents, community leaders, and advocates held a press conference to call on city leaders to support a “People’s Budget” that prioritizes investments in real community safety like jobs, parks, the arts and housing instead of giving more money to the police.
Oakland spends more than 40% of its general fund on policing, a staggering number compared to its neighboring city of San Francisco’s 9%. Yet in a historic deficit, the City has once again proposed increasing the police budget by roughly $40 million over two years, from $683 million to $723 million. Meanwhile, vital city programs including homeless services, the arts, youth services, and violence prevention are on the chopping block.
“Real community safety is achieved through safe and affordable housing, living wage jobs, parks, libraries, youth programs, healthcare, violence prevention and other community services,” said Damion Scott, Community Organizer at East Bay Housing Organizations. “The safest communities don’t have the most police, they have the most resources.”
“Oakland can’t keep slashing critical services to the bone to sustain the bloated costs of OPD. Transferring roles to civilian workers, minimizing police overtime, and eliminating wasteful spending on items like OPD’s public relations department, military equipment, and police academies would save vital dollars that can be reallocated to making our communities safer by meeting the needs of all Oakland residents,” said Cat Brooks, Executive Director and Co-founder, Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP)
“Policing isn’t the solution to Oakland’s problems. Affordable housing is public safety. An affordable, livable city is a safe city,” said Kijani Edwards, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)
“Art provides community cohesion and a shared sense of identity and belonging that are fundamental to safe and healthy communities. The tougher times are, the more important Arts and Culture are. The proposed 37% cut to the arts is catastrophic; it will limit staffing, reduce grant funding, and directly impact historically underserved communities of color. Dis-investment in the arts runs counter to the true meaning of public safety,” said Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, Oakland Poet Laureate, Lower Bottom Playaz, BAMBD-CDC
“The Department of Violence Prevention is facing a massive 20% cut in funding for violence interruption strategies, which will most drastically affect organizations like CURYJ that work with formerly incarcerated people towards a holistic vision for community peace. We are just beginning to see a significant impact of new investments in these programs made in the last budget. We should be scaling up these investments in our communities, not gutting them,” said Dr. Frankie Free Ramos, Director of Campaigns and Organizing, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ)
“Oakland workers face rampant abuse and discrimination, contributing to deep disparities by race and gender. Police can’t fix abuse at work. But Oakland’s new Department of Workplace and Employment Standards can, by simply enforcing the laws already on the books to prevent things like wage theft, which represents the largest dollar value of theft annually in the US,” said Flavio Martinez, Organizer, Street Level Health Project
The Mayor’s budget proposal increases the police budget by roughly $40 million over two years, from $683 million to $723 million — continuing the city’s long trend of skyrocketing police spending. Over the past decade, Oakland’s police budget has nearly doubled. The Oakland Police Department is by far the single largest line item in the budget, receiving approximately 40% of the general purpose fund every year.
The proposed police budget includes $25 million/ year for overtime alone – more than double the city’s allocation for police overtime just five years ago. Runaway overtime is why many Oakland police officers make more than $500 thousand per year — about six times the median household income in Oakland. The proposed budget increase also includes six police academies over the next two years at a cost of over $25 million. These academies have been shown to be largely ineffective, with more than one-third of trainees failing to graduate or complete field training.
Meanwhile, the Mayor’s proposed budget makes steep cuts to several key programs within the Violence Prevention, Workplace & Employment Standards, Human Services, Economic & Workforce Development, Public Works, and Transportation departments. Some of the programs being defunded in the Mayor’s current proposal are:
- $2 million from Lake Merritt Lodge, an emergency homeless shelter for some of Oakland’s most vulnerable residents
- $2.7 million from Oakland Kids First, which supports youth to advocate for their needs and priorities, and improve educational equity, racial justice and academic outcomes for low-income students of color
- $5.9 million from the contracts budget for the Department of Violence Prevention, which supports dozens of community-based organizations who provide critical violence prevention and intervention services
- $450 thousand from a shuttle program for low income children to access enrichment programs and planned field trips through The Parks, Recreation & Youth Department
- $1.9 million from the Oakland Cultural Affairs Division’s program of offering grants and subsidies supporting the city’s cultural nonprofits, artists, filmmakers, festivals and outdoor markets
The proposed increase to the Oakland Police Department’s budget for the next two years could pay for all these vital city programs more than three times over.
The Oakland People’s Budget Coalition was originally formed in late 2013 as ReFund & ReBuild Oakland by community, labor, and faith groups. Coalition members include: Anti Police-Terror Project, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, ACCE, BAMBD – CDC, Block by Block Organizing Network, Build Affordable Faster – TODCO, Causa Justa Just Cause, Centro Legal de la Raza, CURYJ, EBASE, EBHO, HAWG, IFPTE 21, Oakland Rising, Oakland Tenants Union, Parent Voices Oakland, SEIU 1021, Street Level Health Project, UNITE HERE Local 2 and Wellstone Democratic Club.