Oakland Police Dept. on chopping block

June 30, 2009 3:33:03 PM PDT
The City of Oakland is set to finalize its budget tonight. The deficit is a staggering $83 million. Proposed cuts would affect everyone associated with the city from police and city staff to those who use the libraries or parks.

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Reducing city maintenance, raising parking meter rates and ticket fees, and even shutting public branch libraries one day a week are all ways Oakland residents could soon experience the city's budget crisis.

There is just no way to close an $83 million general fund deficit without people feeling the pinch.

"If they're closing down the parks and the libraries and stuff, where are the children going to use as resources to utilize? I mean like, it's going to be hard for everybody," Oakland resident and student Lamar James told ABC7.

Public safety is also going to suffer as the police department is now on the chopping block. A group of council members is proposing cutting $13.4 million from the police budget, not an easy move in a city with one of the Bay Area's highest crime rates.

However, councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente does not think these cutbacks will make the streets less safe.

"10 years ago it was only 629 cops, okay. And, then it was 700, and then it was 730, and now we have 800. So, I think it's also how do we manage the resources? And, how do we deploy our resources?" he said.

Council members want Oakland police to take the same 10-percent compensation reduction that other city employees are taking. Many in the public agree this is the fairest way to go.

"If I was going to do it I'd make equal cuts across the board. Everybody would have a cut, not just pick and choose who they think is priority or not a priority," said Oakland resident Joe Edwards.

De la Fuente says, "The mayor is taking a 10% reduction. We're taking a 10% reduction."

A 10-percent cut to Oakland police could mean officer layoffs and even furlough days. The police helicopter could be grounded except in emergencies. There would possibly be no more use of police for events.

The city is in the midst of renegotiating the police union contract and hoping to get some concessions. On the flip-side, when it comes to raising revenue the city is proposing a citywide entertainment surcharge. For example, fans could pay an extra 10 percent on tickets to watch A's or Raiders games at the Coliseum.

LINK: Watch streaming video of the Oakland City Council meeting beginning at 5 p.m.

LINK: Information about ballot measures for July 21 election (PDF)

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