As the Oakland City Council prepares to vote on the city budget for the next two years, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Mayor Libby Schaaf are saying they are in basic agreement on spending priorities, including enhancing public safety, filing in potholes and providing services to support the city’s most vulnerable residents, including children and senior citizens.
The practice in Oakland is that the mayor recommends a budget, but the council ultimately makes the decision. Council members have been holding a series of budget hearings, making their own proposals, and are scheduled to vote Tuesday on the final budget for fiscal 2015-2017.
According to McElhaney, her budget proposal prioritizes care for children, elderly, families and the vulnerable; protecting and promotes equity in Oakland’s diverse community.
In addition, McElhaney says her proposal adds additional community safety measures to the mayor’s budget. “What became most clear to me during our budget discussions was the desire to focus our limited resources on those who are most in need.” she said. “The city must be a leader in addressing racial and other forms of inequity in our community.”
Mayor Schaaf told the Post that her and McElhaney’s proposals complement each other. McElhaney has added additional services for the community because the city has recently learned that its revenue is higher than was previously expected, she said.
“I am pleased with the council president’s latest proposal. It preserves and enhances my proposal based on new revenue,” said Schaaf.
McElhaney said she appreciated the solid foundation of the mayor’s budget and the inclusion of many of the councilmembers’ priorities in that proposal. She said her amendments “refine the mayor’s proposals to reflect what I believe are priorities and values expressed by members of the council and public, over many months of public discourse.”
McElhaney’s proposal includes an investment in a new office of Race and Equity, proposed and championed by Councilmember Desley Brooks.
The proposal allocates funding to reduce chronic school absenteeism in partnership with the Oakland Unified School District; trains pre-school teachers for quality instruction in the Head Start Program; creates youth summer jobs; and provides grants and scholarships for low-income youth to participate in Oakland Parks and Recreation programs.
The council president’s budget builds on the mayor’s proposals for increased police staffing, adding three police evidence technicians and one crime analyst to help solve crime, and providing additional staff in the City Attorney’s office to support code enforcement to address blighted properties.
Seeking to deal with ongoing complaints about potholes and the need for street repairs, McElhaney’s budget will spend $2 million for additional street repaving and unfreezes positions dedicated to illegal dumping and blight removal.
Mayor Schaaf said she shares McElhaney’s desire to enhance programs for the most vulnerable residents of the city. She also agrees with the “commitment to a holistic approach to public safety, not just growing our police department but also committing to prevention and intervention programs,” including programs to combat chronic student absenteeism and creating college savings accounts for students.
Schaaf also supports the inclusion of full funding for the new Department of Race and Equity, a reentry jobs program and significant salary increases for city workers.