OAKLAND -- Voting begins next week in the special mail-in election Mayor Jean Quan and the City Council called to ask voters for a new $80 parcel tax, extend a deadline to fund police and fire pensions, and to decide how the city attorney will be chosen.

The Measure I parcel tax, the most debated of the three ballot items, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. It is expected to collect about $11 million a year for five years.

When the city closed a two-year budget shortfall of $134 million in July, it relied largely on concessions from police, fire and civilian employee unions. In negotiating those, Quan frequently talked about a need for "everyone to contribute," and said she would campaign hard for the new tax.

Quan has suggested several priorities on how to spend the money. Councilwomen Rebecca Kaplan and Pat Kernighan also have a proposal that will be discussed at the council's Oct. 18 meeting.

Under Quan's proposal, the funds would be broken down this way:

  • $5.4 million would go to police, most of it to fund a new police academy. Some would also go to expanding Oakland's contract with the gunshot-finding technology company Shot Spotter.

  • $1.5 million would go to pothole repair crews and other infrastructure maintenance.

  • $1.2 million would go to parks and recreation services, to hire gardeners, repair old and failing irrigation systems, and trim city trees.

  • $800,000 would go to violence prevention efforts aimed at local youths, including keeping parks open late during the summer and sponsoring jobs programs.

  • $800,000 would go to restoring Internet Technology staff to police and libraries.

  • $700,000 would go to improving streetlights in high-crime neighborhoods.

  • $500,000, would go to increasing hours for senior services and libraries.

    Measure I has come under fire from Council members Ignacio De La Fuente and Desley Brooks, as well as local homeowner and landlord groups. They argue that City Hall needs a spending overhaul because it's asking for more money from Oakland homeowners, who already play the highest property taxes in Alameda County.

    Supporters include council members Kernighan and Larry Reid, police Chief Anthony Batts, fire Chief Mark Hoffman and library Director Carmen Martinez. They say the money is crucial and fulfills the vision of a "fair share" budget.

    Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils -- a network of neighborhood groups organized in part to sway public safety policy -- are split on the issue. NCPCs in the Montclair, San Antonio, MacArthur and Rockridge districts oppose the tax. NCPC leaders from North Oakland and the eastern hills are backing it.

    Measure J would extend the city's deadline to fund the Police and Fire Retirement System, or PFRS, a pension plan that has been closed to new hires since 1976 but still pays benefits to about 1,000 members.

    It's currently underfunded, and the city is projected to have to pay $45.6 million into it annually. It began making payments in July.

    According to the city auditor and city attorney's offices, extending the deadline would not increase or extend any taxes, and it would reduce the city's annual payments by spreading them out over more years.

    Measure H is asking voters whether to return Oakland's city attorney to an appointed position. The job had been an appointed position until 2000, when former Councilmember John Russo won the seat.

    Russo quit in June and Barbara Parker, a 20-year veteran of the office, was appointed to fill out his term. She has promised to run if the job remains an elected position.

    Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.

    Oakland
    Oct. 17: Voters to begin receiving ballots
    Nov. 15: Voters have until 8 p.m. to return ballots
  • No postage needed
  • Ballots can also be cast at the Registrar of Voters office, 1225 Fallon St., Room G-1, Oakland.

    Oakland
    Measure I: A parcel tax, expected to collect $11 million a year for five years
    Measure J: Extend Oakland's deadline to fund the Police and Fire Retirement System
    Measure H: Would return city attorney to an appointed position