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Protesters Shut Down Oakland City Council Meeting, Call for Budget That Responds to Oakland's Needs
by Ken Epstein, Oakland Post
Sunday Jul 16th, 2017 2:47 PM
In an act of civil disobedience, Oakland residents, city workers and community shut down the City Council budget meeting on June 26, preventing the council from approving the city’s 2017-2019 budget.
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[Oakland City Council meeting on June 26. Photo by Cat Brooks.]


The vote was rescheduled for Thursday, June 29. By law, the council must adopt a new budget by Friday, June 30.

Before the meeting was disrupted, community members called on council members to postpone the vote to give the council more time to hear about the desperate conditions Oaklanders are facing: more affordable housing and tenant protections, help for the city’s rapidly growing homeless population to get off the street and access to higher wages and decent jobs for workers.

The protesters opposed the budget backed by Council President Larry Reid and Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Annie Campbell Washington and Abel Guillén, instead supporting the budget proposal submitted by Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks.

Cat Brooks, a community activist who was involved in Monday evening’s civil obedience, said council members who favored the council president’s proposal were trying to “pass … a ‘status quo’ budget giving money to the hills, developers and OPD (Oakland Police Department.”

“The people successfully interrupted the meeting and demanded a delay on the vote and that the only budget that gets passed (should) be the people’s budget,” said Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project.
She called for more money for youth jobs, less money for cops, more funds for arts and artists, more money for the unhoused and for housing protections.

City workers asked the council to recognize their needs.

“We have an opportunity to fix Oakland and make it a city that everyone can thrive in, not just real estate developers,” said Felipe Cuevas, a city public works employee and local labor union SEIU 1021 Oakland chapter president.

“Residents and workers deserve a city budget that prioritizes public services and puts people first,” he said.

Margaretta Lin, a former city staffer who helped spearhead Oakland’s Housing Equity Roadmap in 2015, said the amount of money being earmarked for the homeless is inadequate.

“The proposed budget (for homelessness and anti-displacement) increased by only $370,000 for the next two years. This is even less than what the City of Berkeley, one-fourth the size of Oakland, is funding for anti-displacement,” she said.

James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union said in an interview with the Post that the council’s budget fails to recognize that Oakland is in the midst of an affordable housing and homelessness crisis.

“Last year the Public Works Department spent $210,000 cleaning up debris and closing homeless campsites, which just pop back up once they leave,” he said. “This is not a constructive use of funds or a solution to a growing epidemic.”

Because the city has not met the challenge, a group of residents called the Homeless Advocacy Working Group began to hold biweekly meetings in January and have come up with a comprehensive program that would address these crises in various ways, Vann said.

The group’s proposal allocates $3 million per year to respond to the city’ homelessness epidemic.

The money would pay for the construction of tiny homes and establishing supervised campsites on city property, which would provide counseling, sanitation, bathrooms and other needs.

Mayor Libby Schaaf told the Post her budget dedicated significant funding to deal with homelessness. “We are dedicating $120 million to improve our city’s infrastructure, thanks in large part to Measure KK, while also making an unprecedented investment of $185 million in city and county funds to tackle homelessness in the immediate and long term,” she said.

Responding, Vann said, “The mayor’s statement is very misleading. She is projecting getting money from the county, she’s projecting getting some grants. But that money is not in the budget. It’s a fantasy – it’s money she’s hoping to get.”

“What there is for the homeless is about $100,000 – it’s almost nothing.”