Oakland, CA-The people of Oakland deserve clean streets, affordable housing, critical city services, and good jobs. From the flatlands to the hills, it is clear that in order to build a city where everyone can prosper, our city leaders must invest in the physical, social, and economic health and wellbeing of the people of Oakland.
The COVID pandemic has revealed the interdependency of our communities — the people of Oakland lean on each other in times of dire need. If we’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that transparency and collaboration is key for survival. In that light, the renters, essential workers, and low-income residents of Oakland were hugely disappointed by a one week delay in the publication of Mayor Libby Schaaf’s 2021-23 Budget. The opaque “budget proposal,” finally published by Mayor Schaaf and City Administrator Ed Reiskin last Friday, amounted to little more than a series of confusing web links — and far from the comprehensive budget mandated by the city’s “Consolidated Fiscal Policy” ordinance.
The document and links released on Friday give virtually no opportunity for residents and advocates to respond and do not offer clear explanations of the expenditures and cuts the Mayor intends to make in the next two years. Ironically, the Mayor’s refusal to release a detailed, timely, accessible budget violates the very, Consolidated Fiscal Policy that then-Councilmember Schaaf authored and helped pass in 2013.
The limited release that the Mayor did put out last Friday shows that she plans to green-light cuts to 9-11, and only increase spending by $19 million on homelessness and $32 million on affordable housing to tackle the city’s homelessness crisis. Instead, the Mayor is prioritizing the Oakland Police Department, spending $480,000 to explore the development of a new, $500 million Police headquarters.
Mayor Schaaf’s proposed plan for Oakland assumes cost of living adjustments for sworn police but none to frontline civilian workers, who make up the majority of people of color who live in Oakland. This lack of investment continues a years-long pattern of underfunding essential city services, including libraries, parks, transportation, and affordable housing. More must be done to address the concerns of the people of Oakland.
If the people of Oakland are to receive their fair share, city leaders must commit to a fully transparent budgetary process, demand the release of the comprehensive “budget book” and support reinvestment in Oakland’s most underserved communities and services.
In light of the Mayor’s refusal or inability to release an actual, comprehensive budget, the ReFund Community-Labor Coalition is calling on city leaders to urge the Mayor and City Administrator to immediately release a two year budget proposal that residents can access and respond to. In reaction to what little was discerned from the web links released last Friday, the groups are also requesting city leaders sign onto a values statement letter and pledge, to make public their commitment to prioritize the Black, Indigenous, Immigrant, and working class communities of Oakland. Despite housing and homelessness being the main concern in a poll conducted by the City of its residents, the budget proposal allocates only $41 million for new affordable housing, almost 1/15th of the budget for policing. Community members are demanding a transparent budget process that prioritizes real solutions to the most pressing concerns facing the people of Oakland.
The pandemic has placed working people in an economic pressure-cooker where people are desperate — struggling without traditional social, emotional, and spiritual forms of community. This lack of support, services and other resources is a direct result of the Mayor’s refusal to prioritize the economic wellbeing of her constituents. The people of Oakland are clear – we need a budget that prioritizes frontline city workers and services to ensure our city is clean, with an abundance of youth programs, housing, and job opportunities.
Now is the time to join together to win a budget that reinvests in us, so that when the pandemic ends, we can ensure every one of us can support our loved ones, earn our fair share, and protect the people who worked to keep our city running during the pandemic. We call on all city leaders to sign onto the Refund Oakland Coalition’s letter and commit to prioritizing us—the people of Oakland.
This statement can be attributed to the Refund Oakland Coalition, a coalition of Labor and Community groups committed to reinvesting in the people, jobs and services that help Oakland thrive. The coalition represents thousands of working class Oaklanders and includes the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Anti Police-Terror Project, Causa Justa: Just Cause, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, East Bay DSA, East Bay Housing Organizations, Ella Baker Center, Oakland Rising, Oakland Tenants Union, Parent Voices Oakland, SEIU 1021 and many others.