Oakland tries to sort out $83M budget gap

June 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
At 3 p.m. a City Hall meeting started and became quickly heated with Oakland city workers pleading for their jobs and residents asking city officials not to cut crucial services.

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Oakland officials need to close an $83 million budget gap by the end of the month to get the city out of the red, but exactly what Oakland will look like when it's all said and done, that's just where the disagreement starts.

"Oakland will look like Oakland. There will just be a few things that we'll have to do differently," says Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.

"Oakland's not going to look the way it looks today," says City Council president Jane Brunner.

Last month the mayor introduced his own proposed cuts, but the City Council disagreed with many of them and now they're debating their own ideas on how to keep the city from the worst case scenario -- bankruptcy.

"That does not include the possibility of what the state may take from us," says councilmember Jean Quan.

The council is considering extending parking meter hours until 8 p.m. and raising meter rates, adding a 10 percent ticket surcharge for events at the Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Arena, and even grounding the police department's helicopter.

The mayor has proposed closing some branch libraries, but the council wants to keep all libraries open at least five days a week and to instead cut the budget for new books and literacy programs.

All of this concerns Oakland residents who packed a hearing at City Hall on Tuesday.

The council also wants the mayor to cut $800,000 out of his own office budget. In a preemptive strike, Dellums announced that he will reduce his 15-member staff by 20 percent and take a 10 percent pay cut from his $183,000 a year salary.

"I am in no way interested in a fight. That's not what this is about," says Mayor Dellums.

The mayor's pay cut would amount to $18,000 and that comes on top of a $68,000 raise that he received two years ago. However, the council itself is deciding if they should slash their own salaries by five percent and strip their staff's budget by 20 percent.

On Tuesday night, residents packed the City Council meeting over the budget issue. The council wants to extend parking meter hours and raise rates. Cuts to the city's police department will depend on how much federal grant money the city receives.

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