City workers protest at Oakland City Hall over budget

June 21, 2011 7:03:43 PM PDT
Hundreds of city workers protested at Oakland City Hall late on Tuesday over a budget vote that could have cost them their jobs, but now that vote has been postponed. That vote could be pushed back another week, and that's because city leaders are still at the bargaining table with employee unions, trying to get them to give up millions in concessions.

An eleventh-hour protest was held Tuesday afternoon to save union jobs and the city of Oakland as they know it. In a sign of just how dire the budget crisis is in Oakland, there are 14 of the city's 18 libraries that could be shut down.

That number includes a tool-lending library, where anyone who needs just about any kind of tool can borrow one for free and the cuts just go on from there. Fire stations could be closed, police academy classes cancelled, the head of the city's largest employee union says hundreds of workers could be laid off.

"We would be talking about individuals who clean the parks, individuals who service the city in a number of ways," said SEIU Union Local 1021 president Dwight Mcelroy.

The City Council was slated to vote Tuesday night on a budget that would slash services, but balance Oakland's $58 million deficit. That vote will likely be pushed back another week as city leaders continue contentious negotiations with employee unions, hoping everyone from gardeners, to police officers and firefighters will agree to give back nearly $30 million in concessions.

"Were almost in the 11.9 hour and we're still trying to accomplish that goal," said Council Member Ignacio De La Fuente.

Mayor Jean Quan offered the City Council three different possible budgets, from the worst to best case scenario. That includes an $80 parcel tax measure for homeowners, which the council has yet to agree to place on the ballot, and selling the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. Now it's up to the Council to decide.

"The consensus that I have heard from the Council is that we are not willing to close down libraries," said De La Fuente.

Those on the potential chopping block hope that proves true.

"If those people lose us, then they're out of a job and I don't know what's going to happen to them," said Ty Yurgelevic from the tool lending library.

Instead of a vote at Tuesday night's budget meeting, there will likely be a long discussion. One of the employee unions plans to present its own budget plan that it says could save the city $42 million by doing things as simple as making sure all the parking meters work so the revenue can be collected.


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