Plan to rehire OPD officers requires new taxes

July 27, 2010 8:25:18 PM PDT
Oakland city officials are making a plea for help to prevent more police layoffs. Their future lies in the hands of voters who will decide on two parcel tax measures on the November ballot. If they don't pass, more than 100 cops will lose their jobs.

Two-thirds of voters in Oakland have to agree on the measures for it to pass. Given this economy, every Oakland city official would say this is going to be a tough sell.

Gordon Dorham is one of the 80 Oakland officers just laid off.

"It's stressful, it's painful and at the end of the day you look around and you say, 'Well the streets of Oakland are not as safe as they were when we were out here,'" says Dorham.

For him to be rehired, two things need to happen. The first is Oakland voters must pass a tax, costing homeowners $360 a year for the next four years. It's called the dollar-a-day parcel tax. Then there is a second item, Measure Y -- the violence prevention measure -- that must be revised to allow the city to keep collecting $20 million in parcel and parking taxes.

Council president Jane Brunner supports both measures.

"I am willing for a dollar a day, less than a cup of coffee, to pay for having the police services that I think my family needs," says Brunner.

However, Oakland voters should be aware if Measure Y and the dollar-a-day parcel tax don't pass, the city is threatening to lay off 120 more officers -- leaving the department with just 573. If only the Measure Y revision passes, they would still lay off another 27 officers. But if both measures pass, Oakland will rehire the 80 officers just let go and there would be no layoffs.

"Oh, absolutely... as I am holding my $3 coffee. Yes, my family's safety is worth it," says Oakland resident Simon Flemming-Wood.

"They always seem to go to the taxpayers to bail them out for whatever they do," says Oakland resident Bruce Cobbledick.

Both the mayor and police chief are asking the public for help.

"Oakland like many, many other cities across this entire country is in dire economic straits," says Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.

"You've had a police department that has acted professionally when addressing crime. They have shown they are worth the investment," says Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts.

But City Council wants officers to pitch in too. The parcel tax will only go on the ballot if police agree to contribute 9 percent into their pension fund: four percent the first year, another three percent the second and two percent the third year.

Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan wants police to contribute even more, so she voted against the parcel tax

"All the other city employees pay the full employee share," says Kaplan.

The Oakland Police Officers Association says it is talking with its officers about it now.

An agreement must be in place by Aug. 10.

Police have paid nothing towards their pension plan. Meanwhile, every city employee in Oakland contributed 9 percent a year and firefighters contribute 13 percent.


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