OAKLAND — Suspending the city's Cultural Arts Program and reducing the budget for Mayor Ron Dellums' office by $430,000 are included in a set of budget proposals offered by Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Jean Quan.
The city is wrestling with an estimated $42 million deficit. And the cuts Council President De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale) and Quan (Montclair-Laurel) proposed are aimed at closing the final $10 million after Dellums made specific suggestions on $32 million in cuts last month and provided three separate suggestions on how to close the remaining gap.
"We're trying to minimize the number of people who are getting laid off and the cuts to direct services," De La Fuente said. "Nobody wants to cut anything and I understand that, but obviously we don't have a choice."
Among other changes, De La Fuente and Quan also suggested: closing City Hall one day a month for the rest of the fiscal year; eliminating $100,000 in funding for AIDS prevention and education; ending a $325,000 contract with the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau; reducing pay for elected officials by 5 percent; cutting the council's discretionary "Pay-Go" accounts by 50 percent; and restoring funding for three park ranger positions.
In September, Dellums recommended closing $32 million of the deficit by eliminating or freezing vacant positions, laying off 84 employees, transferring general fund costs to other funds and by increasing rates
He suggested the final $10 million could be cut by closing City Hall once a week (with exceptions for police, fire and other essential service), laying off 120 more employees or negotiating with unions for employee concessions.
De La Fuente and Quan said their proposals to cut $10 million were designed to hit the upper reaches of city government and to limit the impact on direct services to the public — but their ideas didn't come without their criticisms.
Lori Zook, acting chair of Oakland's Cultural Affairs Commission, called it "unacceptable" to suspend the city's Cultural Arts Program, which awards grants to a number of arts organizations in the city.
"Nobody goes into the arts to get rich in the first place," Zook said. "Most organizations are just barely squeaking by. You take out (15 to 20 percent) of their budget, what's going to happen? They're going to have to fire people. They might not be able to put on as many shows this year. They might look to go to other cities. "... It would just be tragic."
Quan said there are city art programs outside the Cultural Arts Program that would continue to receive funding.
But Dellums cautioned against cutting the program. He also opposed cutting the $100,000 for AIDS prevention, which is used to leverage outside dollars to fight the disease.
The cut to Dellums' office would reduce his annual budget from about $3.1 million to $2.6 million — roughly what former Mayor Jerry Brown's budget was.
Dellums objected to the idea. His spokesman Paul Rose said the mayor is a strong believer in separation of powers and that, in a strong-mayor form of government, the executive branch should make its own decision on where efficiencies can be found.
Rose noted a review led by former City Manger Robert Bobb is ongoing.
"Parallel to the budget process, the mayor has already been looking at ways we need to pare down, where we need to better define the city's operations, and how (we can) coordinate things in a manner that creates greater efficiencies and effectiveness," Rose said. "The mayor was already anticipating cuts and changes."