OAKLAND -- A blistering pair of debates at City Hall on Tuesday night ended with Mayor Jean Quan's proposed $80 parcel tax in jeopardy and the city's hotly contested security contract going to a new firm.
The council voted in March to tack the parcel tax onto the statewide special election ballot being sought by Gov. Jerry Brown in his effort to ask voters to sustain expiring state taxes. That plan fell apart, leaving Quan and her backers on the council scrambling to get an Oakland-only ballot out in time to collect the estimated $11 million Quan says is crucial to tackling the city's impending budget catastrophe.
On Tuesday night, Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente (Fruitvale), Libby Schaaf (Montclair-Laurel) and Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) voted down the declaration of urgency needed to push through a special city ballot in July in time to be able to legally collect the taxes, should voters approve the measure.
Schaaf, who along with De La Fuente had voted in March against putting the measure before Oakland voters, said the problem Tuesday was with open government rules. Because the council had known there was a chance the state special election would fall through, it had no excuse for voting on a special city election without having given the public 10 days' notice, Schaaf said.
Quan said the city is already facing devastating budget cuts to close a $46 million deficit that could get worse depending on looming state and federal budget choices.
"We have to ask for assistance from the citizens of the city if we can keep a semblance of the city's infrastructure going," Quan said.
She asked Council President Larry Reid to call a special meeting this week to give sufficient public notice and give the tax one last shot. It was unclear Tuesday whether that meeting will happen.
Quan said that if the tax is approved by voters after the July deadline that allows the city to collect the tax, Oakland would loan itself the $11 million and make it up while collecting the tax the next year. "I'm almost desperate enough to go ahead and try to do that," Quan said.
In other action, the council voted to give the city's $2 million annual security contract, including hiring guards for city hall and other municipal buildings, to Cypress Security, in the wake of controversy about the bidding process.
Cypress Security ranked at the top of 10 firms to bid on the contract last year, while ABC Security, the city's current firm, ranked fifth. ABC has held the contract since 1998 and never ranked first in competitive bids.
Both ABC and its owner, Ana Chretien, were named in a complaint lodged by the city's Public Ethics Commission on Monday night, after an investigation by City Auditor Courtney Ruby stated that ABC, along with another competing firm, had illegally donated money to council members and candidates during the bidding process.
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.