OAKLAND — Voters will be asked July 21 to reduce the amount of money the city sets aside for youth programs, with city officials saying the vote will have huge consequences for Oakland's ability to fund other city services including libraries, parks and senior programs.
The City Council voted 6-2 late Tuesday to place the item before voters after a group of council members struck a deal with the backers of the 2008 youth-program ballot initiative, Measure OO, to reduce the amount of money set aside for the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, which pays for nonprofit, government and school-based youth programs.
Judy Glenn, the chief operating officer of Girls Incorporated of Alameda County, said members of the Kids First! coalition were willing to work on a compromise because of the city's dire financial challenges.
Oakland is facing a deficit of at least $50 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year. That figure could rise to $60 million or $65 million, and possibly higher.
"When Measure OO passed, the economy looked different," Glenn said. "That was a major issue. The city is facing major cuts "... I think we're all doing the best with the situation that is before us."
The July measure would require the city to reserve 3 percent — about $12.1 million in 2009-2010 — of its unrestricted general fund for the youth-program fund. Under Measure OO, the city would set aside roughly $15 million in 2009-10 and 2010-11, with the figures rising above $25 million in 2011-12 and following years.
A repeal of Measure OO would have placed the set-aside at 2.5 percent of the city's unrestricted general fund, while a previous attempt at a compromise called for a 3.5 percent set-aside.
Glenn acknowledged it was strategic for the Kids First! coalition to strike a deal, because, up until the last few days, half of the City Council favored a total repeal of Measure OO. As part of the compromise, the Kids First! coalition agreed it will not campaign against the July measure.
July's special election will also include measures to increase the city's Hotel Tax and to amend the city's Real Property Transfer Tax ordinance to ensure transfers of real estate through corporate mergers or acquisitions are taxable. A proposed $46-a-year homeowner parcel tax for park maintenance was yanked from Tuesday's council agenda and may not make the ballot.
The Measure OO change could have the biggest impact on the city's budget. City Council President Jane Brunner (North Oakland) said she was willing to support the compromise after seeing polling data that showed a repeal of Measure OO had a good shot at winning but that such a vote could go either way.
"The polling basically said people were willing to vote to change Kids First!," she said at Tuesday's meeting. "I think the compromise that was up here tonight really was a compromise, because both sides realized we would have been in a very tough campaign, but either side could have won this one."
Councilmembers Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown) and Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel), along with Mayor Ron Dellums, were involved in reaching a deal with the Kids First! group. Brunner and Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland), initially in favor of a repeal, provided the swing votes to get it on the ballot.
Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale) and Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary), who both supported a repeal, cast votes against the 3 percent set-aside.
"I will not change my vote because that would be, in my opinion, the easy way out," De La Fuente said. "In the next three months, we'll see how easy or difficult it will be for some of us to make some of those tough decisions we make."
Reach Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435.
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