OAKLAND -- Civilian city workers and library defenders were the loudest public voices Thursday night at the first City Council meeting to address Mayor Jean Quan"s proposed budget.
Quan has offered three budget plans: Option A, an all-cuts, worst-case scenario with no concessions from city employees; Option B, a middle ground with employee concessions; and Option C, with the fewest service cuts and layoffs and requiring voter approval of an $80 parcel tax.
The city is facing at least a $58 million shortfall in the coming year.
Option A cuts library spending to the point that it violates Measure Q, which allows the city to collect parcel taxes that make up almost 60 percent of the total library budget. Thirteen library branches -- all but four -- would have to close in that scenario, Quan said.
Numerous library supporters wore pins and called on the city to spare the library such drastic cuts.
Joe Tuman, who ran against Quan for mayor last year, praised Quan for providing options but said her descriptions of the all-cuts budget were "overstating the case for the purpose, in this instance, of creating panic and moving people to the choice you want them to make." Pushing back on behalf of Local 21, the union that represents 900 civilian city employees, Jeffrey Levin was supported by more than 30 fellow union workers who stood as he addressed the council.
"If the situation is so bad," Levin said, "how could you not declare an emergency to put a modest parcel tax on the ballot?"
Levin said that more than half of the city's Local 21 workers live in Oakland while only 22 percent of sworn fire staff and 7 percent of sworn police officers do, despite the large chunk of budget money that police and fire use. Quan has publicly asked the police union to contribute 9 percent toward their pension. The police union has resisted publicly, but are in talks with the city.
"We are not willing to simply offer up concessions without seeing real contributions from those who contribute to the bulk of the cost of the general fund," Levin said.
The next hearing on the budget will be May 12. Quan encouraged anyone with ideas to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.