Oakland police union against spending for radio system boost

A proposal to begin repairing Oakland's ailing public safety radio infrastructure has come under fire from the police union, which has been furious over the system's poor performance.

Sgt. Barry Donelan, who heads Oakland's police union, urged two council committees this week against approving more than $3 million for the radio system.

"I have no confidence in the system," he said. "I have no confidence that a $3 million expenditure will make it better."

Council members said they were frustrated by the system's frequent failures and the city's switch to a digital technology two years ago. They decided to hold off on recommending the expenditure and will revisit the issue later this month.

The police union considers the system a threat to officer safety and has been urging the city to scrap it and join a public safety radio consortium that includes nearly every city in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. But relations between the city and the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority are strained, in part because the network has refused to program Oakland radios to work on its system during an emergency.

Union officials fear that repairs to Oakland's radio system, which famously failed during President Barack Obama's visit last year, would make the city less open to joining the regional consortium.

But city officials said the improvements, which include providing backup power generators and curing static issues at dispatch centers, would be required even if the city did switch systems.


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"Our biggest concern is that these systems may fail and put our men and women in the field at risk," Assistant City Administrator Scott Johnson told council members.

Staffing shortage leaves Oakland treasurer in charge of Human Resources

Under fire for not filling key civilian posts in the police department, Mayor Jean Quan told council members at Tuesday's budget hearing that Oakland's Human Resources department is so understaffed that it's currently being run by the city treasurer.

"If you want to speed up hiring, then maybe you should hire more HR people," Quan told council members who questioned why the city has yet to fill numerous vacant jobs including 20 police technician posts approved earlier this year.

Councilmember Desley Brooks had noted the high number of vacancies -- 47 civilian jobs in the police department alone -- in arguing against authorizing more jobs for police dispatchers, crime lab workers and investigators.

Quan said the city hasn't yet filled the director of human resources position and that the sharply diminished staff has had to focus on holding police academies to increase sworn staffing.

"There are now four department heads that we're not filling so we're making people do two or three jobs and that's why we're asking for administrative help," she said.

Fremont partners with San Jose, Santa Clara in nonprofit tech group

The city has been invited to join San Jose and Santa Clara in a nonprofit organization that aims to partner with businesses and use high-tech tools to help cities improve delivery of public services.

The cities' nonprofit group, called the Silicon Valley Talent Partnership, plans to reach that goal by forging alliances with Silicon Valley companies, such as Google and Adobe, said Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison.

"Anytime you can forge a partnership between government and business to make government run more efficiently, that's a good thing," he said.

Joining the organization is undeniably a feather in the cap for Fremont and its burgeoning tech business scene. "This means that our efforts to expand Fremont's role within Silicon Valley are paying off," he said.

Harrison said he first heard of the idea last month in Philadelphia, while attending the 2013 Mayors' Innovation Summit. There, he spoke with Peter Furman, the chief of staff for San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. A few weeks later, Reed's office contacted Harrison again, formally inviting Fremont to join the organization.

"We are very excited about this opportunity to collaborate with our Silicon Valley partners," Harrison said. "We've often said that Fremont is the Bay Area's best-kept secret, and we want to change that."

San Leandro adopts two-year budget

San Leandro city leaders have decided how to spend more than $250 million over the next two years.

On June 3, the city council unanimously approved a biennial budget, adopting a $125 million operating budget for 2013-14 and $127 million spending plan for 2014-15, higher than this year's $120 million budget. In the adopted plan, the city's $10 million reserve will be drawn down over the next two years by at least $1.63 million, a figure that doesn't include the city's previous $3 million pledge to support San Leandro Hospital.

A 5.9 percent growth in sales tax revenue this year, aided by the seven-year Measure Z quarter-cent sales tax increase that took effect in 2011, has helped offset increasing expenses, namely those for retiree pensions and benefits, officials said. Debt refinancing of lease revenue bonds in March also saved the city $1.8 million.

No pay increases for the city workforce, which is 20 percent smaller than 2008-09 levels, are in the budget, similar to previous years, but seven new staffers are included.

A new pool of $135,000 has been set aside for the creation of a Community Investment Program to be doled out to local nonprofit community service groups, and a separate $100,000 will be spent on beautification work, cleanups, lighting and public events, officials said.

David Baum, city finance director, said the two-year budget is a good public policy trend that will "allow staff to devote time to deliver better services to the city," rather than restarting the budget process each year.