You can help us reimagine what public safety looks like in our communities. Sign up to volunteer on our Defund the Police Text Campaign. You will text bank Oakland voters to survey them on where they would like to see our money refunded and what services and programs they want to see restored.
It’s time to shift misguided conceptions of public safety – from one of fear to one of abundance – where WE voice where WE want OUR money reinvested in – OUR communities and the continued funding of programs and resources we truly need to get us through this pandemic.
Last year we witnessed the largest historic social justice movements bloom out of the loss of our beloved Black community members, like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were unjustly murdered by the same city servants we entrust to “serve and protect” our communities. These social justice movements put a large spotlight on the excessive use of police force and violence on our Black communities, and the funding of police department budgets throughout the country. Not only did our fellow Black community endure the grief of losing beloved community members to police violence in a shifting aggressive political climate that targets their safety, but we also continue to witness how Black communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID with no real safety nets to protect their health, lives and livelihood.
Going into the new year, times are still unprecedented as we saw a recent spike in COVID infections and deaths throughout the country, especially California. This highlighted what we already knew – there is a major shortage of safety nets and resources for our Black and Brown communities. We continue to be the most heavily impacted by high unemployment rates, evictions from our homes, lack of access to healthcare, high COVID fatality rates, and grief from the loss of loved one.
With the City of Oakland’s budget planning process under way, now is our moment to restore, refund, and reimagine our city as one where we prioritize the needs of our community by providing safe and affordable housing for all, healthcare, mental services, good paying jobs, and a clean environment. We need to take this time in history to find solutions to long standing systemic oppression rather than doubling down on policing that has criminalized and victimized our Black and Brown neighbors. We need solutions that find ways to address the rise in violence that get to the root causes like poverty and racism.
During this pandemic, local community members and groups stepped up to create programs and alternative solutions to the issues that many of our people face. We know what we need and we know how to show up for one another. We know what works for our communities and what doesn’t – and we’re ready to use this knowledge to inform the city budget so that it prioritizes the refunding and restoring of our Town.
City Council, the Mayor, and the City Administration are currently reexamining the city budget and will be proposing changes to the 2021-23 fiscal year budget, with the process being finalized by June 30th. Despite our current budget deficit, more than 40% of Oakland’s general budget is projected to continue to go towards the Oakland Police Department (OPD). This disproportionate amount of money invested in policing and terrorizing our communities rather than funding services for our unhoused, unemployed, poor and hungry, reflects the false reality that many in positions of power hold for our communities.
The Mayor, the City Administrator, and the Police Department continue to use fear to push for even more funding for the police department despite the current budget deficit and police department’s unauthorized spending of millions of taxpayers money in 2020. The city administration is scapegoating the rise of crime on individuals rather than the systemic racism of poverty and the impact of decades of economic disparities on our Black, Brown, and communities of color that are now exacerbated by the pandemic. Let’s stop the administration’s undemocratic power grab as they attempt to pick and choose what they want to cut without input from the Council or the community. Read the statement from community and labor groups to learn more.
The underfunding of community programs and services fosters the conditions for increased violence and anxiety in our neighborhoods. It is time to reimagine what public safety and livelihood looks like for our communities – where we refund and restore our public health, parks, and community services.
In 2020, we saw City Councilmembers, like Nikki Bas, Rebecca Kaplan, and Sheng Thao worked with community organizations to pass some of the most progressive measures in the country including a powerful eviction moratorium, extended emergency paid sick leave for workers, financial relief and assistance to families and small businesses through the federal CARES Act, acquiring facilities and supplies to prevent the further spread of COVID within our unhoused neighbors, and many more. And this week, the City Council unanimously approved the emergency Hazard Pay ordinance for grocery store workers. Thanks to Council President Bas and Councilmember Noel Gallo for introducing the measure to the council. This is another large win for our working-class Black and Brown communities who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. But even after passing these resolutions to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, the city administration continues to prioritize policing.
As we begin the negotiations process between City Council, the Mayor and City Administration and hear their proposed 2021-23 fiscal year city budgets, these are the critical months during which we can help shape Oakland’s future. Will we continue to live under the terror of over-policing of our flatlands communities, or will we create a new world where we reimagine what public safety looks like for our most vulnerable people and fund crucial community programs and services we all need? We invite you to help us inform the administration by collecting the public’s opinion for what would make Oakland a thriving town for all its inhabitants. Sign up to volunteer!