Ballot measures may help Oakland's budget

July 20, 2009 6:45:28 PM PDT
The city of Oakland has a lot of revenue riding on the success of four ballot measures voters will be asked to decide. It's a strictly mail-in election with results expected on Tuesday evening.

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But Oakland city leaders are watching nervously, as lawmakers in Sacramento go hunting for more money.

If they pass, Measures C, D, F and H would generate up to $9 million in revenue for Oakland, a city still struggling to cut $83 million from its $414 million budget.

"I'm hopeful and optimistic the voters in Oakland will pass all these revenue enhancements. I think everyone in Oakland realizes we're in a tremendous economic downturn that's virtually unprecedented," said Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.

The measures place no new taxes on most residents. The money would come from increased taxes on pot, hotels and corporate property transfers.

The revenues would support programs for kids like the Oakland Zoo, Chabot Space and Science Center and the Oakland Museum, which have all lost both public and private funding in recent months.

"We're feeling it from all sides and the museums, and the Chabot space and science center and the zoo are places that kids and families and residents can go when they may not be going on vacations," said Lori Fogarty from the Oakland Museum.

Oakland city leaders are confident the ballot measures will provide them with much needed budget relief. At the same time, they're deathly afraid Sacramento's about to conduct another raid.

City Councilmember Jean Quan spent the weekend in Sacramento, lobbying legislators to keep their hands off money meant for cities.

"They're about to grab three-quarters of the gas tax revenues that cities use to fix roads and potholes," said Quan. "And then they're talking about taking, "borrowing" the property taxes from the cities."

Quan says the ballot measures reflect the new reality of how cities must finance their services. If they fail to get a two-thirds majority, she says, expect more deep cuts.

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