OAKLAND — A group of organizations and individuals with long-standing ties to mayoral candidate and former state Sen. Don Perata are among those behind mailers attacking four City Council members after the council voted Thursday to lay off 80 police officers, records show.
The pieces hit mailboxes late last week and Monday after the council's vote on a 2010-11 budget plan and in the middle of negotiations between the city and the Oakland Police Officers Association aimed at securing concessions from the union and possibly saving jobs.
One mailer shows a police officer standing in an unemployment line above the words, "Is this the future of Oakland?" Residents also received a letter from Gary Delagnes, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, comparing Oakland's police staffing level unfavorably to San Francisco's. Both were paid for by the Sacramento-based Coalition for a Safer California.
The group singled out council members Jean Quan, Pat Kernighan, Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks — even though Kaplan and Brooks voted against the budget. City Council President Jane Brunner and Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, who voted for and played a key role in crafting the proposal, were not mentioned in either piece, however.
The coalition's recent supporters include a number of Perata and De La Fuente allies. Among recent donations were:
In May, the coalition paid $29,000 to Sacramento political consultant Paul Kinney, who has worked on Perata-related campaigns dating back at least to 1994 and whose son, Jason, has worked as Perata's public relations consultant in recent years.
Kathryn Scott, who works in Kinney's office, is listed as the coalition's treasurer. Scott referred questions to Paul Kinney, who could not be reached for comment. Perata's mayoral campaign denied any involvement.
"Sen. Perata has had no involvement with the mailers, but shares the concerns raised by many Oaklanders," said campaign spokesman Rhys Williams in a statement. "The City Council has proposed another band-aid solution and their hand-to-mouth approach has Oakland strangled."
In the past, Perata has criticized the council for not placing a half-cent sales tax measure on the June ballot to help pay for services. He said last week that the council should place such a measure before voters in a mail-only election, possibly in September, and said he opposed laying off police. Williams' statement said the council's "approach to budgeting needs a structural overhaul."
Others see cynical motivations. Quan, Perata's leading opponent in the mayor's race, said she is "getting tired of all the fear mongering" from the Perata camp. She has said she believes the city can avoid losing police jobs if officers contribute 9 percent of their salaries toward their retirements and voters approve pending ballot measures in November.
"Obviously, the people who financed this are Perata supporters," Quan said. "It's about beating up the council and intimidating people to vote their way."
Quan was the target of a robo call from Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, the Oakland police union president, before the budget vote last week. The union is supporting Perata in the mayoral contest, though Arotzarena said the robo call had nothing to do with mayoral politics but rather Quan's positions as the council's finance committee chair — an assertion Quan does not buy. Whatever the case, the union said Monday it had nothing to do with the mailers.
"We sent no mailers," Sgt. Barry Donelan, the union's vice president, said. "We're not a part of any mailers. They've got absolutely nothing to do with OPOA."
Both mailers indicated the council would vote on police layoffs tonight. There is, in fact, no meeting tonight after the council voted Thursday on the budget facing a $31 million deficit.
Donelan and Brunner said the contract negotiations are ongoing. Brunner said she was surprised she was not included in the mailers but added that her office is getting plenty of calls.
Kernighan had not seen the second letter but said she found the first "offensive because it plays on people's fears and because it was so obviously politically motivated."
She added: "I think Oakland residents should be suspicious of anything that is paid for by the California prison guards union. Why should an outside group with deep pockets be interfering with the difficult decisions that we have to face here in Oakland?"
Kernighan and Brooks are up for re-election to their council seats this fall. Kaplan is seriously weighing a mayoral run, which could be a reason she was targeted. Kaplan said Monday that she voted against the budget plan in part for reasons unrelated to police but also because the city should have done more work on short- and long-term pension reform before cutting officers — including placing reforms before voters if necessary.
"I did not vote to lay off cops," she said. "If the prison guards union wants to have a debate with me on any policy disagreements we might have, I would welcome it. "... But it's really unfair to the voters of Oakland to be sending out mailers that are factually untrue."
Attempts to reach Delagnes, of the San Francisco police union, and a spokesman for the prison guards union were unsuccessful.
Staff writer Josh Richman contributed to this story.