OAKLAND — The future of the Kids First 2 ballot measure, Measure OO, remains up in the air after the City Council on Tuesday could not agree on an alternative ballot question to place before Oakland voters.

Measure OO was approved in November — 53 percent to 47 percent — to dramatically increase city funding for youth programs, and council members have long discussed the possibility of asking voters to repeal or amend it as the city faces at least a $50 million deficit in the upcoming fiscal year.

Eyes are now turning to Councilman Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland), who was not at Tuesday's meeting when the council failed twice to reach the five-vote majority needed for a resolution to ask voters to change the measure.

The council is basically divided in two camps, with one group aiming for the total repeal of Measure OO, and the other hoping to meet the measure's supporters part way on a compromise. Reid said Thursday he was still mulling his position.

The council is expected to revisit the issue March 17.

"I'm studying both of them," Reid said, of the two options the council voted on Tuesday. "But we have to do something. If we don't do something, it's going to have an incredible impact on an already huge budget deficit that we're facing this year and in 2010."

Measure OO requires the city spend 1.5 percent of its total revenue on the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal years.

The fund goes to nonprofit, school district and government-based youth programs, and, under the terms of the measure, the percentage of total city revenue directed to it would increase to 2.5 — or about $25 million — beginning in 2011-12. The measure did not identify any new funding stream, however, and council members are deeply concerned about the impact it would have on other city services, including libraries, parks and senior centers.

Council President Jane Brunner (North Oakland) joined Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale), Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) and Rebecca Kaplan (at-large) in supporting a resolution to ask voters to repeal the measure.

Should the measure be repealed the city would continue setting aside 2.5 percent of its unrestricted general fund — as opposed to its total revenue — for the children's fund. A repeal of Measure OO could save Oakland nearly $5 million in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and more than $15 million in subsequent years.

After the first resolution failed Tuesday, Kaplan joined Councilmembers Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel), Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown) and Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) in supporting a proposal to set the set-aside level at 3.5 percent of the unrestricted general fund.

The difference between the two proposal amounts to about $4 million a year, a figure that will grow as Oakland's budget does.

Neither resolution reached the five-vote majority required to place an item on the ballot and Kaplan, like Reid, said she was keeping her options open to support either proposal — or possibly something in between the two.

"What I know to be true is if we don't find five votes, we're not doing anything," she said. "And if we don't do anything, we're in much worse shape."

The council did vote Tuesday to ask voters to increase Oakland's Hotel Tax from 11 to 14 percent. And besides the Measure OO change, two other potential revenue-generating ballot measures are under debate.

No election date has been set.

One final wild card on Measure OO is a question of whether the coalition of youth advocates behind the measure will support a compromise measure if the council places one on the ballot.

As of Tuesday, the coalition was willing to support a 3.8 percent general-fund set aside, which is more than what council members would like to spend, but significantly less than what voters approved in Measure OO.

Marriages honored

Eight months after Mayor Ron Dellums officiated some of the first same-sex weddings in Alameda County, some of the couples that were married will return to City Hall today to share their stories.

Councilmember Kaplan organized today's event, which will be held a day after the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning the legality of Proposition 8, the ballot measure Californians passed in November to outlaw same-sex marriage.

Not too much legalese over the difference between a constitutional "revision" and "amendment" is expected. Kaplan said the idea is to hear from same-sex couples about their marriage experiences as well as what it would mean to them if Proposition 8 is upheld.

The event will run noon to 1 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Just Cause upheld

A state appellate court upheld a lower court's ruling last week protecting Oakland's Just Cause ordinance, which Oakland voted into law in 2002 to strengthen renter protection.

The Just Cause ordinance restricted landlords' abilities to evict tenants, and a group of landlords filed suit to overturn the measure after it was approved.

City Attorney John Russo said in a statement the appellate court's ruling Feb. 26 was an important victory for Oakland — especially during a foreclosure crisis when, according to Russo, illegal evictions are on the rise.

Reach Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435.