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Oakland Leaders Unite on Measure BB

Oakland Police Department officers
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Oakland Police Department officers
Proposal would allow city to collect safety funds and reinstate officers

On Election Day in Oakland, some usually divergent city leaders are uniting on one cause: how to save Measure Y. 

From City Council members to police union officials, few are still vying for the passage of Measure X, the measure that would levy a $360 annual parcel tax on single-family residences to allow the city to rehire police officers and resume the minimum staffing levels required to collect Measure Y funds.

“Basically, there hasn’t been a campaign around X. We don’t think Measure X is going to pass,” said City Council President Jane Brunner.

A similar message comes from the Oakland Police Officers Association, whose members are campaigning Tuesday afternoon in East Oakland in support of pro-police mayoral candidate Don Perata and Measure BB, also known as “the Measure Y fix.”

The police union had originally supported Measure X, but union officials abandoned the cause after Perata came out against it and after their privately funded poll showed the measure had very little chance of passing. The measure, if passed, would also require police to begin paying 9 percent of their salaries into their pensions — a concession that police do not want, but that many believe is coming anyway. 

“We know that concessions are inevitable at some point,” OPOA president Dom Arotzarena said while campaigning for Perata early Tuesday afternoon. “But first of all there has to be leadership with some understanding and fairness that public safety is a priority.”

Measure Y, also known as the Violence Prevention and Public Safety Act of 2004, is credited with helping to decrease violence and increase employment among youth and young adults in the city. It established an $88 per year parcel tax totaling $19 million in funds for violence prevention programs and 57 problem-solving officers. But in order to collect the funds, the measure requires the city to keep police staffing at a minimum of 739 officers.

After attrition and layoffs this summer, the number of officers has dropped to about 690.

Measure BB would alter the rules of Measure Y to allow the city to collect funds despite the low numbers of officers. It would also allow the city to reinstate 57 problem-solving officers. But critics say the measure reduces accountability and places little pressure on city leaders to funnel funds and energy into strengthening the department. The measure also does not solve the cash-strapped city’s longer-term need for revenue.

What’s received much less attention than both X and BB is Measure W, which would establish a $1.99 per month tax on all cellular and landline phone lines, generating about $7 million a year for the city. Brunner said the money would go into the city’s general fund, and council members have said they would use it for public safety. 

But some supporters of Measure BB have split from backers of Measure W. With anger over the city’s deficit, it’s become very unpopular to support new taxes.

“There are people who are very strong about no new taxes,” said Brunner, who also originally campaigned for Measure W. “When we were campaigning and fundraising, mainly citizens, business people and developers didn’t want to support new taxes, but they were very willing to support BB.”

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