Oakland considers selling convention centers


Oakland city leaders made painful cuts just a few months ago. They cut programs, they cut more than 400 jobs and remaining employees took a 10 percent reduction in pay.

Oakland is bracing for another round of reductions since it is already an estimated $19 million in the red.

"This is somewhat of an adjustment for a lot of different reasons," says Oakland City Council Member Jean Quan.

Council Member Quan calls the $19 million in cuts, now facing her city, an adjustment. Still, coming on the heels of the $140 million slashed last fiscal year, many community members disagree.

"Members of the city council, you have entirely lost your credibility," says Oakland resident Marleen Sacks."You have broken your promises over and over and over again."

The latest deficit comes from $11 million in declining state revenues and hotel taxes, a $3 million jump in police overtime, and the city's failure to collect four and $4.5 million in surcharges at the Oracle Arena and Oakland Coliseum.

"The money that's coming in has dropped dramatically as everybody knows. So it's turning out to be somewhat worse than we originally thought," says Oakland City Council member Pat Kernighan.

The city's considering several options to close the latest gap. They include selling both the historic Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and the convention center at the Downtown Marriott, extending utility taxes to water and garbage service, and issuing bonds on future parking revenues.

"It's not making me happy. I mean, after $140 million, what else can you cut and not really hurt programs that are touching everybody in the city?" says Quan.

The measures sound drastic, but city leaders may be right back at the business of cutting the budget next summer with the arrival of the new fiscal year.

When asked if is it going to get worse before it gets better, Kernighan replied, "It may."

Once they deal with the immediate $19 million problem, the city council has a projected deficit for the next fiscal year of $25 million. They are looking at long-term funding solutions, including suspending measure Y in Oakland, which guarantees minimum staffing levels at the police department. They may also ask voters to approve a parcel tax.

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