Oakland mayor makes painful cuts

September 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A contentious city council meeting took place in Oakland Tuesday night as the city faces an economic emergency of its own. The mayor laid out some painful cuts needed to close the $42 billion budget deficit and many city workers will likely lose their jobs.

"We came to the conclusion, Mr. President, that something was wrong. That our financial situation was much more dire than we anticipated," said Mayor Ron Dellums.

A financial review found former City Manager Deborah Edgerly overestimated revenues and underestimated expenditures, leading to a $42 million budget deficit.

"Where are we? How did we get here? And what is our plan to get out?" said Mayor Dellums.

Part of the mayor's plan to get out is to shutdown city offices every Friday shaving off nearly 20 percent of the deficit.

"I'm raising 3 kids, so it's definitely going to be hard to live with a 20 percent pay cut. Everything else is going up. You got gas going up," said Tim Glasper, from the Public Works Department.

Among the most sensitive of these options is the possibility of firing more than 200 city workers. Almost sure to go are 34 park and maintenance employees. Fellow city workers and supporters made their voices heard "outside" of city hall as well as inside.

"All of these things are essential raising the quality of Oakland and we stand ready to fight with them and to fight with you if need be," said Ethel Long Scott, with the Women's Economic Agenda Project.

The mayor also proposed cost sharing on retirement and medical insurance, but there are no proposed reductions in the Police Department, which exceeded its budget with overtime costs.

"It's looks as though we're bankrupting the rest of the city for public safety," says Desley Brooks, a city council member.

"I'd like to look really look very carefully at the jobs that pay more than $100,000 a year," said Pat Kernighan, a council member.

The council members agreed there will be a combination of lay-offs, benefit cost sharing, and retirement cuts.

"There's going to be pain," Mayor Ron Dellums

And in the next two weeks, the council will begin tearing apart and reassembling a mismanaged budget that will likely put workers in the unemployment line.


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