Oakland parcel tax for officers goes on ballot

July 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
In a city that's been racked with scandal lately over the misuse of public funds, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums wants people to agree to a tax hike to pay for more police officers on the street. It was a hard sell on Tuesday night.

Mayor Dellums doesn't usually attend city council meetings, but he did on Tuesday night to address Oakland's number one issue.

In Oakland, crime is a top concern for old residents and new. Annette Thomas and her family moved from San Antonio last week.

"My family was worried about my move to Oakland because of the crime rate," says Annette Thomas, a new Oakland resident.

Mayor Dellums hopes adding more police officers will make a difference. He's aiming for 105 officers over the next three years, but the mayor wants a parcel tax to pay for it. That would be about $105 per parcel in the first year and up to $265 by the third.

Tuesday, Mayor Dellums appeared before the city council, urging them to put the issue before voters.

"If the residents of Oakland decide that they want to reject it, so be it. This is democracy, but if they want to do it, let's have a conversation around the proposal that is needed and that is responsible," says Mayor Dellums.

Regardless, the idea of paying more in taxes, even for more officers, just isn't sitting well with many Oakland residents. They say they have lost confidence in City Hall, especially after the recent firing of city administrator Deborah Edgerly, over charges of nepotism, cronyism and interfering with a police investigation.

"You are not going to get the support of my neighbors who I talk to about these issues, unless there is transparency with regards to what is going on with the monies that we are paying in Oakland," says James Price, an Oakland resident.

Still, while a few council members acknowledge they need to first get their own house in order, a majority stressed the importance of more police officers.

"Yes, I think that there is some waste and inefficiency, but there's not $40 million worth of it," says Jean Quan, an Oakland city council member.

"I need to be able to go and walk the streets at 11 in the morning, up to the store and feel safe, and that's our responsibility to make sure that happens," said Jan Brunner an Oakland city councilmember.

So the issue of a parcel tax to pay for more officers will go before voters in November. This is a big victory for Mayor Dellums who wanted this on the ballot.


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