No Measure Z


by Gary Sirbu

[ Sept. 2014 ] – When Measure Y was passed by the voters in 2004, Oakland was the 24th most dangerous city in the nation. Ten years and 200 million taxpayer dollars later, Oakland is the 2nd most dangerous city in the nation.

We have fewer police today than before Measure Y was passed.  Measure Y required the City to maintain a minimum force of 739 officers. This measure only provides for a force of 678.

We need more officers, not fewer. Consultants hired by the City this year reported back that Oakland needs a force of 800 officers, but Measure Z goes in the opposite direction.

Measure Y gave the fire department 4 million dollars a year, which was to include delivery of mentoring services in every fire house for at-risk youth.  It never happened.   Now, ten years later, Measure Z rewards it with two million dollars per year to maintain “adequate personnel resources to respond to fire and medical emergencies including, but not limited to, response to homicides and gun-related violence and investigate fire causes.”   That is exactly what the fire department does right now in the normal performance of its duties.  And OFD’s contract with the City guarantees its current level of staffing though 2018.

When Measure Y was introduced, proponents argued that its passage was critical to reduce crime in our city. Yet in her most recent annual report, Dr. Patricia Bennett, the head of Resource Development Associates, which is the Measure Y evaluator, stated the public’s “high expectations” that the measure would reduce crime and violence were unrealistic.  She noted that “Measure Y legislation emphasizes prevention and early intervention services, which are not necessarily aligned with expectations that the initiative reduce violent crime.”

That in fact is the case: residents of Oakland have experienced unprecedented levels of crime.  Yet they being are asked to extend Measure Y via Measure Z, that is, to continue on a path that has proven ineffective while they pay even more money.  It will cost both renters (by pass-through) and homeowners between $700 and $1100 over its 10-year lifetime without producing a safer city.

The most important failure of Measure Y was the improper balance between the funds allocated to police and to social programs. Measure Z continues a 60% police-40% social program split.    Social programs will receive almost $7,000,000 per year.

Far more funding should go for police. A sufficient level of police staffing has an immediate and direct effect on crime reduction.  When potential offenders see an adequate, consistent police presence, they move off the street and indoors. Lives of innocent bystanders are saved.

Social programs are not immediate in their effects.  We should not rule out all social programs.  However, we need to fund a measure that provides many more police officers and focuses money on only those social programs that are easily scrutinized for effective, best practices and actual, visible crime reduction.

In May 2013 Camden, New Jersey, one of the nation’s toughest cities, significantly boosted the size of its police force. Criminals left the streets and went indoors.

The chief told his officers that he would measure their success not in tickets written, but in the number of children riding bicycles in the street.  Officers began knocking on neighborhood doors to ask residents their concerns.  Trust in the police was greatly restored.  Residents and police began to work together. Today shootings are down 43%. Children are again riding their bikes. Residents and police alike feel hope for their neighborhoods and their city.

Oakland can do this too.  But Measure Z isn’t the way.

The current Measure Y is fully funded through June, 2015. If you want Oakland to be safe, if you want Oakland’s mothers, teens and children to walk in its streets without being shot, if you want more protection from robberies, if you want hope restored to our residents and our businesses, there is time to make the City come back to us with a competent, workable measure.


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