Sirbu’s Measure Z Rebuttal


[ October 2014 ] Bruce Nye, speaking for the pro-Measure Z campaign, Neighbors for a Safe Oakland, is distraught by MGO’s vote to oppose Measure Z.  “MGO members,” he scolds, “should review all modern informed views of crime and violence prevention, with the available data.”

The MGO vote to oppose Z came after club members attended a very vigorous debate on its merits. One of the two persons who spoke on the pro side was its primary author, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney. The club listened to her arguments, listened to the arguments of the opponents (I was one), asked questions of both sides, and voted no.  Furthermore, MGO had already put on a comprehensive seven months series of programs looking at Oakland crime from numerous vantage points. To suggest that members voted against Measure Z on the basis of ignorance is laughable. The club voted on the facts. A supermajority of 60% rejected Measure Z.  Nye’s rebuke is way off base.

Without referencing any specific pages, Nye gives links to two reports totaling 258 pages and to a power point presentation. He provides a long list of elected officials, private groups and individuals who have endorsed Measure Z.  Did they review all those materials or were their endorsements based on their general philosophical views, their political loyalties, or their financial interests?  Look at this major contribution to the Pro-Z Campaign and draw your own conclusions: In July of this year the City signed off on a contract guaranteeing Oakland firefighters secure staffing of 507 positions until 2027.  The following month the International Association of Firefighters, Local 55, contributed $100,000 to the pro-Z campaign.

I mistakenly wrote that Measure Y required the City to maintain a minimum force of 739 officers. Nye says that Measure Y only required the City to “budget” the money, not to spend it.  Do you think the voters who approved Measure Y thought that?  Or do you think that parsing language like that is one of the reasons so many voters now distrust Oakland’s leadership? The same thing is happening again with Measure Z.  It contains language providing for a minimum of 678 police officers, but there are also three escape clauses that permit the City to go under that amount.

Measure Z proponents are running scared. Nye now argues that if Measure Z fails, a police budget disaster will occur. However, the City of Oakland budgets on a fiscal year basis, that is, from July 1 to June 30th, and it has planned and still plans to fund Measure Y through that time. Current incoming revenue for police may prove to be sufficient. If it is not, the Council can quickly turn to the City’s general fund. The Council is fully aware that crime is the number one issue for Oakland residents. It also knows that they will not tolerate a drop in police funding.

I take exception to Mr. Nye’s charge that I quoted Dr. Bennett out of context. He is wrong.  Here is the complete language:

“Unrealistic expectations:

Despite the fact that Oakland Unite has relatively limited resources, the public has high expectations for it to reduce crime and violence.

The Measure Y legislation emphasizes prevention and early intervention services, which are not necessarily aligned with expectations that the initiative should reduce violent crime.”

The second point is independent of the first.  Dr. Bennett is clearly saying that these services do not necessarily reduce violent crime.

Elsewhere in her report Dr. Bennett wrote the following with respect to street outreach worker programs: “While staff explain that overall they are able to work with most youth, there are some who are just not open to services, and unfortunately, they are typically the young men who could really reduce the amount of violence in the area.”

The public has been awaiting effective crime control for ten years. How safe do you feel? And how safe do you think the residents in the afflicted areas feel?

Nye agrees with Measure Z opponents that far more funding should be spent on police, but he then argues that polling shows the public won’t pay for it.  He has missed the point, which was that vast majority of the same money allocated within Measure Z to the fire department and social programs—tens of millions of dollars—should be redirected to the police and that the Council should prepare a new measure that does this.

The Mayor and Council made a colossal mistake in putting forth Z in its current form. According to Nye, the City would have 88 days to file a new measure before the Registrar’s June deadline.  That is plenty of time.  Z would not have to be re-written from scratch to redirect these funds.  The main change would be changing the current language that gives 40% of Z’s funding (the amount remaining after initial allocations to administrative costs and the fire department) to crime prevention programs.

Nye accusingly states that “Measure Z opponents, including MGO, propose that we punish Oakland for not spending enough on public safety by giving the city even less for police and violence prevention.”  But Oakland’s residents never punish Oakland for rejecting unsound legislation. The reverse is true.  The Council and Mayor are punishing Oakland’s residents by attempting to impose a measure that will cost an estimated $237 million dollars and will fail, as did Measure Y, to relieve our city from the ever-impending threat of violence.


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