If you want to see the prior blogs:
1. Welcome to Oakland-The Model City
2. Welcome to Oakland-The Model City: Part Two, Oakland Police Brace for Cuts, Data Shows They are Overworked
3. Welcome to Oakland-The Model City: Part 3, The Big Vote
I've also stayed with the story to show how it progresses because in many ways it should be the same thing in your city if it has a deficit of size.
Please consider: Police layoffs won't end Oakland's challenges
It's a sobering measure of how tough times are for the city of Oakland that its leaders have chosen to lay off 80 police officers. Oakland had the highest violent-crime rate in the state of California last year, and the sixth highest in the nation.
The City Council didn't take its decision lightly. But faced with a $30.5 million deficit - and the fact that the police and fire departments consume 85 percent of the city's budget - it did what was politically repugnant but economically necessary.
The question is, will it be enough? And if not, what will be?
The harsh truth is that 2010 may be the start, not the end, of Oakland's economic distress.
"This year we're talking about 80 cops, and I can tell you that if we don't fix this structural deficit, next year it's going to be worse, and the year after even worse," said Ignacio De La Fuente, vice president of Oakland's City Council.
The projections for the next several years show even greater deficits than in 2010. Voters are facing ballot measures for higher taxes, with the certainty that their reward will be fewer services, no matter how they choose to vote.
De la Fuente is dead right, and utters what I've said, "The budgetary issue for Oakland and many cities has years of re-occurring issues and short falls to play out." We are in inning number 2 for Oakland.
Against that grim backdrop, even Oakland's famously dysfunctional city politics have begun to recede. Though Mayor Ron Dellums exhibited his typical semi-engagement - missing in action during the entire cycle of budget talks, he showed up at the 11th hour to proclaim the City Council's ideas as his own - the council itself has been mature, subdued and serious. Police Chief Anthony Batts has assured residents that 911 calls will remain the police department's top priority, no matter how many layoffs the department is facing. These people recognize the severity of what the city is facing.
In my opinion, Dellum is one of the worst municipal leaders in the country. His city is in the middle of budgetary hell, and he's mailing it in from off-site. When times are tough you have to roll up the sleeves and show up with everyone else. He has no business being a Mayor, and thankfully he's done soon.
Unfortunately, the police union does not.
The police union has been engaged in a fierce public-relations war with city officials. It wants a promise of no layoffs, ever, in exchange for agreeing to pay into their pension system. (Amazingly, the firefighters already have a no-layoff clause written into their contract.)
This says everything you need to know. No support from the police union, and the Firemen are untouchable.
City Council of The Model City can try all they want to balance the budget, but they will never, ever, ever get there because of the Policemen and Firemen unions.
The only solution is obvious: BANKRUPTCY, it's just a matter of when the City Council gets over it, and pulls the plug.
The insanity continues in The Model City and not much has really changed.
I'm for bankruptcy, how about you?
Hope all is well.
J.D. Rosendahl, Rosey