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Oakland voters choose cops over kids

In July, Councilmember Jean Quan presented an alternative to the Kids First 2 measure that would appear on the ballot as Measure OO. Though acknowledging that the city could ill-afford any funding increases, Ms. Quan held no hope that a Kids First 2 ballot measure could be defeated. “I know it will pass, because kids programs are so popular. They’re more popular than police!” she asserted.* November’s vote proved her wrong.

Of course, because of the legal difference between taxes and set-aside laws, Kids First 2 passed and Measure NN, to increase cops, did not, despite receiving thousands more votes. Though, as a set-aside, the threshold for passage was lower for OO (an option that anti-crime activists had considered in the Spring), nonetheless the difference in votes, about 3000, shows that cops are indeed more popular than kids’ programs. The difference in campaigns only reinforces this point.

NN met with far stiffer opposition than OO. Opposition came from those influential over potential Yes votes: the anti-police argument was strangely missing from this election, even from its most strident proponents, Councilmember Nancy Nadel (who sat the entire election out, as the only Councilmember not to endorse either Council candidate) and PUEBLO. The Safety First funding mandate’s leaders opposed NN, as did anti-crime advocates like Charles Pine and Ignacio de la Fuente (PDF). Support from Mayor Dellums and the Chamber of Commerce consisted of weak mailers sent only to poll voters. Despite this, the measure won 54% of Oakland votes. The consensus for cops, even without the support of activists, is clear.

In October, No on OO campaigners including Sharon Cornu of the Alameda Central Labor Council and Susan Montauk of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board begged the City Council at Open Forum to campaign against the measure. They didn’t. No on OO only had the funds to send a mailer to absentee voters (Yes on OO sent a mailer to poll voters), and I never saw Councilmembers do more than a make brief mention in their newsletters. The old and new media fell in against OO but their influence is limited, and the largest, the Chronicle, didn’t do Oakland endorsements. Overall, OO was a low-information campaign that most voters probably decided just by looking at the ballot question.

OO was packaged, deceptively, as a costless means of keeping existing youth-serving programs. NN was a tax increase to expand policing resources. Three thousand more Oaklanders voted to tax themselves for more police than to keep existing children’s programs for free. In November’s election, Oakland voters were more supportive of cops than kids.


* I’m pretty sure I remember Ms. Quan’s speech almost exactly, but this may not be a direct quote.

Posted in budget, california, citycouncil, delafuente, dellums, elections, jeanquan, nadel, oakland, taxes.

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4 Responses

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  1. Chris says

    > because of the legal difference between taxes and set-aside
    > laws, Kids First 2 passed and Measure NN, to increase cops,
    > did not, despite receiving thousands more votes.

    The unfortunate lesson is that we should push a set-aside measure to increase Oakland PD funding from the General Fund. Fiscally, that is pretty lame, but you will get your cops.

    Which programs would have to forfeit their share of the General Fund? No one can predict. It’s Russian Roulette with city services.

  2. dto510 says

    That certainly is a lesson. Though another is that the City Council should have been more aggressive in opposing OO, by placing a competing measure and actively campaigning. Another lesson is that Dellums was very wrong to ignore grass-roots anti-crime leaders when writing Measure NN.

  3. Chris Kidd says

    I know it’s beating the same old drum, but this is the epitome of how screwed up prop 13 is. I really don’t have hope our state will ever right itself with that proposition in place. Ballot box budgeting just encourages deficit spending, severe cuts to real city programs that are absolutely essential, or stealing money out of old program set-asides (like with the libraries this year). The fact that such self-destructive governing only needs a majority vote while rationally planned, self-financed tax measures need a two thirds vote remains one of our state’s cruelest ironies.

  4. Max Allstadt says

    One would think that if you needed a supermajority for revenue decisions at the ballot box, spending decisions should require the same bar. Would it be illegal for Oakland to up the requirement for spending decisions to match the state’s bar for taxes?

    As far as 13 itself goes, I think one might get traction for an initiative that strips it down so that the freeze continues to apply only first to homes but excludes commercial property and vacation homes.

    I think if you can afford a ski-cabin you can damn well afford to pay extra taxes on it.